By Bob Parsons, De
When I read Carl Dix’s thoughts on being in court with his reflections on the Jim Crow oppression of Black people in the 1950s/60s – how the Stop “Stop and Frisk” campaign stands on the shoulders of the legacy of the 1960s Freedom Fighters, how the prosecutors are the modern day version of those who put 1960s freedom fighters in jail and worse – it made me recall my own personal history. I did not experience Jim Crow as Carl had – I had been totally ignorant of it.
I grew up in a white segregated area of the country. I had the occasion at 12 years old in 1958 to travel through the Deep South with my father and 11-year-old brother. We stopped at a gas station in Mississippi or Alabama. My brother and I went to the side of the building to use the rest room. We saw two – one labeled “white” and one “colored.” We had never seen this and were totally confused. We asked my father what it meant. He said only, “Use the ‘white’ one, boys.” We used the rest room and then being curious, opened the door to the “colored” one. The entire rest room – every square inch of surface, floor, walls and ceiling – was smeared with feces. We ran away, more terrified than after viewing any horror movie. And, more horrified because we had no idea what it meant, why anyone would do that. And, after the way our father had answered us, we were scared to ask him.
Fast forward to 1968, and a 21 year old who was being slowly awakened by the war in Vietnam and the beginning of the civil rights movement, though not aware of much of it and having never known a Black person. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I watched TV news that showed scenes of Black people rebelling and 100 cities burning. I thought to myself, “Black people are very intensely, deeply angry about something…. and I don’t know what it is. I think I’d better find out.”
A 45-year quest ensued, begun because the oppressed rose up and slapped me awake. I learned there were white people who took up the battle to end Jim Crow segregation and even gave their lives. Now we have the new Jim Crow, mass incarceration of 2.4 million people, a huge percent Black and Latino, with the NYPD’s “Stop and Frisk” policy a pipeline to that mass incarceration. As Carl Dix has said, this amounts to a slow genocide that can turn into a fast genocide. Too many people, especially white people, are not aware of either aspect of this. Carl Dix and Cornell West initiated the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and then the Stop “Stop and Frisk” campaign as a way to raise that consciousness and act to stop them.
When Carl, Jamel and others went to Zucotti Park last October to tell people of the first action planned for a Harlem precinct station, a large percentage of the young white people who were rebelling as part of Occupy Wall Street had never heard of “Stop and Frisk” and were unaware of 2.4 million in prison and how that impacted the lives of millions of other Black and Latino people. When it was explained to them, many were shocked and some took it up enthusiastically, including a number who were arrested in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Queens action for which we are on trial.
Every time I heard the prosecutor say this trial is not about Stop and Frisk but about the defendants having “broken the law, “ I kept thinking how so many, especially white people, were ignorant of how “the laws” supported the entire Jim Crow segregation, how EVERY ASPECT OF THAT SEGREGATION WAS LEGAL. They simply wrote laws and if you fought Jim Crow, you were the one “breaking the law.” I also thought of another historical example. Every aspect of the holocaust was legal, including the “final solution.” The Nazis simply passed laws to make it so. And too damned many Germans went along with it.
This new generation of Freedom Fighters is determined to build a mass movement that will wake up millions of all nationalities to fight these intensely egregious expressions of the oppression of Black and Latino people, to STOP Mass Incarceration and STOP “Stop and Frisk.“
Act to support the STOP “Stop and Frisk” Freedom Fighters on trial and declare to the world, “I’m a Freedom Fighter too!”
Sisters and Brothers,
Sitting in the court in Queens listening to the prosecution and the judge talk about this trial isn’t about Stop & Frisk but about whether Jamel, Morgan, Bob and I ‘broke the law,’ took me back to the 1960’s and the struggle to end Jim Crow segregation. Whites only facilities, Black people having to ride on the back of the bus or sit in the balcony in movie theaters and the lynch mob terror the enforced all this. That’s the legacy our campaign to Stop “Stop & Frisk” stands on the shoulders of, and those prosecutors are the current day version of those who put 1960’s freedom fighters in jail, and worse.
We’re one week into this trial. The trial is recessed till Monday,(now probably Thursday 11/1) and we have a chance to make the fact that 4 people who protested that racist, immoral policy are facing time in prison a major story in NYC and beyond. On Monday, the prosecution will put on its major witness and show the video of the protest at the 103rd precinct. The next day, a couple of the defendants will testify. In strategizing over these next few days, we should remember the impact our protests had last year. Think about the youth who faced being harassed, disrespected and worse by police every day, who drew hope and inspiration from what we did. The people who didn’t face being stopped and frisked themselves, but who were horrified to learn that people faced this treatment because of the color of their skin and felt it was wrong. We need to figure out how to tap into all this.
Bloomberg and Kelly are doubling down on Stop & Frisk, defending it in the face of continuing exposure, mounting resistance and disagreements among the powers thqat be over whether and how to continue that policy, with elected officials and the NY Times expressing concern that the controversy over this policy is feeding broader discontent in society. We need to reach out to the people who are disgusted by Stop & Frisk with a simple message. “If you don’t like Stop & Frisk, then you need to have the backs of the people who stood up against it and are facing time in jail for that righteous stand.”
How do we do that? One way would be for some of us to come out to the next day of the trial when a press conference and rally is planned, and for all of us to reach out to our networks and encourage everyone we can reach to come out in support of these defendants. We all have various platforms we could use in doing that. Some of us could get this story into various media. (Jamel and I are available for interviews if you’d like to have a defendant involved in the story, altho’ it’d be fine for you all to be the person interviewed.) There are different audiences we all could speak to about the trial. There are other ways we could generate support for this trial. We should use all of the platforms available to us to the max.
Here are crucial things people could do to manifest their support:
- Come out to the trial (whenever the court opens - see stopmassincarceration.org for updates)
- Add your name to the resolution calling for dropping the charges. stopmassincarceration.org/resolution.html;
- Get the story of this trial into the media;
- Spread the word on it via e mail, twitter, Facebook, etc;
- Contribute money and support the fundraiser on Oct 30th to help meet the mounting expenses of fighting this important legal battle.
In setting out to do this, we should be guided by something we said when we took on Stop & Frisk in Harlem last year: “We Won’t Stop till We Stop “Stop & Frisk!””
by Debra Sweet
As we're going into the prosecution phase in the high-stakes trial in Queens where four of our activists could get two years in jail for protesting stop-and-frisk, I'd like everyone to remember WHY we're doing this. Travis Morales reports from Tuesday's hearing on stop-and-frisk conducted by a committee of the NY City Council at Brooklyn College:
About 180 packed the NYC Council Civil Rights Committee Hearing on Stop-and-Frisk at Brooklyn College. About 40 people, including myself, testified. A wide array of people, mainly African-American with some white and Latino people, young and older, testified. The testimony was gripping. Person after person, 15 year old to a 73 year old told about being stopped, humiliated and frisked. Others told of being brutalized. Some people in the audience were crying when a petite African-American woman spoke about being stopped as she walked into her house. She and her family members were savagely beaten with members of her family suffering a broken leg and jaw. She kept wailing to the Council members, "What are you going to do about this?" 15 year old young women told of being groped and fondled. The stories were vivid, heartbreaking but anger provoking and enraging. Stop-and-Frisk must be stopped. A former police officer that is an official with the NAACP spoke to how people in the community are fed up and angry and warned if something isn't done to stop this that some people were going to take law into their own hands. Attorneys told of being stopped and frisked with one having a gun put to his head. This was quite an experience.
Why would we allow this to go on 684,000 times in 2011, without protesting?
Today, two alternate jurors were chosen, and seated with the 6 primary jurors. They are all Queens residents, half born in Queens, and the others in Ireland, Israel, Guyana and Dominican Republic. Through the process of jury selection, 6 of the 7 jurors who expressed a strong opinion about stop-and-frisk were against it. Needless to say, most of them didn't get on the jury.
We had a smaller group of supporters today, but just as many officers from the court Special Response Team who have been following the stop-and-frisk protest trials in four boroughs. The judge claimed that he didn't "notice" the six officers who rotate to stand at the exit door, or next to the supporter side of courtroom, behind the defendants and our attorneys. They glare at us and look for things we may be doing wrong, like reading books. Two are especially beefy.
The day ended with opening statements from the prosecutor, and defense. Michael Vanunu, an assistant D.A. who is conducting his first ever trial, now has a permanent, shadow, his supervisor, who sits behind him and is consulting on every little thing. He also has another Assistant D.A. who took over jury selection today, and did their opening argument, rather shrilly. Their case is that, even though there was a protest going on that they had no problem at all with, some of the protesters "crossed" the barricade which surrounded a full block around the 103rd precinct, walked "all the way" to the door, locked arms in front of it and refused to move.
Defense attorneys Meghan Maurus, Thomas Hillgardner, and Marty Stolar sharply challenged this scenario, telling the jury 1) it was the NYPD who barricaded a whole city block in front of the precinct, disrupting their own normal operation; 2) it was the NYPD who opened the barricade and invited the protest in, and 3) there was no intent to disrupt the precinct by protesters. Rather, our intent was to have a noisy protest at one of the precincts with the highest rate of stop-and-frisks in the city, and to tell them to stop it.
The trial opens at 9:30 am tomorrow (Thursday), Room K11 in Queens Criminal Court, with testimony from two arresting officers. At the point, the schedule is no court on Friday, and back Monday morning for the main prosecution witness, Inspector Charles McEvoy of the 103rd Precinct. See you there!
by Carl Dix
The first day of our trial for protesting stop-and-frisk in Jamaica Queens last November went slower than at least I anticipated. We didn’t even finish jury selection. The prosecution announced they won’t put on their main witness till Monday, which means we won’t get to the defense case till Tuesday, Oct 30th.
The prosecutor and judge said often that this case isn’t about stop-and-frisk, but just about whether we broke the law. This has me wondering, “Why are we here facing 2 years + in jail?” The laws we’re charged with breaking all speak about our intent. The Obstruction of Government Administration charges, which each carry a year in jail penalty, include language along the lines of ‘…acting with the intent to keep a public official from performing their duty.’ Our intent was and is crystal clear—to protest stop-and-frisk.
This discussion about the case not being about stop-and-frisk confused some of the prospective jurors. Several of them asked how they were supposed to separate the protest from what we were protesting. Of course, the prosecution eliminated them from the jury using their pre-emptive challenges.
The court told prospective jurors they had to decide our guilt or innocence without considering what our punishment could end up being. In other words, "don’t worry about the fact that we’re trying to put these people in jail for 2 years for protesting a racist, illegitimate policy. Just think about whether the way we have charged them several times for a single act can be justified by our tortured logic and fit within our rules. We’ll handle bringing the hammer down on them and delivering a message to any who drew hope and inspiration from their actions that there’s a heavy price to pay for standing up to what they do to us."
by Debra Sweet
Court Support - No Jail for Carl Dix & Stop-and-Frisk Freedom Fighters
Wednesday October 24 & Thursday October 25
: 9:30 am in K11, Queens Criminal Court 125-01 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens
Monday October 29 8:45 am Rally to deliver messages to the District Attorney's office to drop the charges, on the day the main prosecution witness will testify.
Tuesday October 30 9:30 am, Probable defense case begins
We trekked out to Queens EARLY today to be in front of hundreds entering the Queens Criminal Court to pay tickets, work, show up for appearances, defend clients, or serve on a jury. It took about a half hour before 30 of us were moved down the street, 200 feet away from the building. By then, lots of flyers were in the hands of people standing on line to enter, and quite a number were wearing new STOP stop-and-frisk buttons.
Four of thirteen defendants arrested last November went on trial today, and we packed all the spectator seats with supporters.
Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt and Bob Parsons face some heavy charges, and two years in jail, considering they spent ten minutes non-violently chanting on the steps of a precinct house that was already barricaded by police.
The court building is not far from the infamous 103rd precinct, where many of us had marched through Jamaica protesting NYPD stop-and-frisk.
The 103rd has one of the highest rates of stop-and-frisk in the city, and one of the lowest rates of tickets given and arrests of people who are stopped. It's the precinct where officers killed Sean Bell in 2006 with 50 bullets, as he and his friends, unarmed, were partying on the eve of his wedding. We were at the 103rd, carrying on protest campaign of stop-and-frisk as part of organizing people to stand up against the abusive, unconstitutional searches Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly defend.
Today, jury selection began. When a pool of potential jurors were told that the protest was against the city’s highly controversial practice of stop-and-frisk, two raised their hands to tell the judge they didn’t know if they could be impartial, because of their opposition to the policy. Overall, the jury pool provided more openings for us than the prosecution, with people coming from many countries, and experiences with police and authority.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Vanunu had argued in pre-trial motions that the jury would be confused by being questioned about First Amendment rights of speech and assembly, and therefore discussion of those rights should be disallowed. Our defense attorneys Martin Stolar, Meghan Maurus and Thomas Hillgardner argued, and prevailed, that they question jurors on whether they knew about stop-and-frisk, had opinions about it, or about protest. Their questions brought out decades old experiences, as 6 of 14 jurors said they had participated in protests for women's rights; against police brutality, budget cuts, stigmatization of Haitians because of HIV; against the Marcos government in the Philippines.
A jury of six was chosen. Alternate jurors will be selected Wednesday, followed by opening statements. The trial is expected to go into the week of October 29.
Over 1,000 people have signed a request to Richard Brown, the Queens District Attorney, to drop the charges and discontinue prosecuting
the 13 defendants in the case, including Noel Leader
, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care; Constance Malcolm
, mother of Ramarley Graham; Margarita Rosario
, mother of Anthony Rosario, and aunt of Hilton Vega, killed by NYPD; The Rev. Al Sharpton
, National Action Network; Jumaane Williams
, New York City Councilman; Basir Mchawi
, International African Arts Festival Chair; Allene Person
, mother of Timur Person, killed by NYPD; Juanita Young
, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, killed by NYPD.
Please join them in signing. And come out to court!
On Tuesday October 23, I will be on trial along with Carl Dix, who, with Cornel West, initiated the 2011 campaign of nonviolent protest to stop Stop-and-Frisk. We are facing up to two years in jail for non-violent protest at the NYPD 103rd precinct in Jamaica, Queens last year.
The stakes are undoubtedly high: this is the second stop-and-frisk protest mass trial resulting from the culminating action of the civil disobedience campaign that sparked citywide resistance to the policy. The Queens District Attorney added a serious misdemeanor charge on us last month, and re-wrote our charges last week so that we’re charged with ‘acting in concert’ rather than as individuals.
The action last November was the third such protest at New York City precincts with the most stop-and-frisks, this one taking place in the borough of Queens. We held a community rally and march through Jamaica, Queens, which ended at the 103rd Precinct. As our march arrived at the precinct, it was completely barricaded on all sides – on lock-down in anticipation of the protest. An officer slides open one of the metal grates and motions us inward so that we may protest at the precinct doors. After minutes of chanting and singing outside of the precinct steps, 20 of us were arrested, quite quickly, but held for hours late into the next day. For less than ten minutes of protesting stop-and-frisk outside of the doors 103rd precinct, which houses the NYPD officers who put fifty shots into Sean Bell, 12 co-defendants and I now find ourselves facing two years of jail time.
If anyone think this is just an empty threat, and they won’t convict or send us to jail, let me reiterate—the DA has twice bumped up the charges in the last month, and has made it very clear that the prosecutorial apparatus intends to place us behind bars. A year ago, those who had no first-hand experience of the humiliation of being illegally searched barely knew the practice occurred. Those who got stopped and frisked thought there was nothing one could do about it. Now, the stop-and-frisk policy and the horrors it inflicts are going viral in mainstream society. Copwatch and videos of NYPD stops garner thousands of views, and nearly every day there are articles or opinion pieces about stop-and-frisk. Potential mayoral candidates have even had to confront this, as politicians line up to claim their opposition to the policy, or express their desire to reform or modify it in the ongoing pursuit of public opinion.
In this watershed moment, when stop-and-frisk is opening a window into the daily plight of thousands, the very people who put their bodies on the line to put this issue into the spotlight and openly call out for its abolition are vigorously prosecuted and threatened with incarceration. I refuse to accept this. It’s unthinkable that the Queens District Attorney, who couldn’t make a case against the cops who murdered Sean Bell, is now throwing the book at nonviolent civil disobedience protesters. In this light, the intended effect of this prosecution is insidiously transparent: to send a chilling effect through the movement against mass incarceration, and dampen the spirit of resistance it has ignited. To put it quite simply: don’t speak up, and certainly don’t fight back.
Well, I’m speaking up. And not just as someone who is passionate about the issue. I speak as a target of police abuse, as a Fulbright Scholar whose scholarship was almost denied after being assaulted by Boston police while trying to leave a party. I speak to you as an artist and teacher whose work in New York City public schools has me witness the humiliation and degradation of the youth by the NYPD on a daily basis. I speak to you as a committed opponent of the New Jim Crow, a system of mass incarceration that has 2.4 million mostly black and Latino men warehoused in prisons across the nation, with stop-and-frisk as a major pipeline into that system.
Most of all, I speak to you as someone who has cast their lot with those at the bottom of society: with those thousands of youth who are brutalized, targeted, harassed, and shuffled off behind bars — and is now facing years in prison for standing with them.
We fully intend to stop this railroading by bringing the political battle into the courtroom and putting Stop and Frisk on trial. If we are allowed to be convicted and jailed without a massive fight, then the battle against stop-and-frisk and the spirit of resistance it has engendered will be seriously dampened. On the other hand, if people stand with us in this legal battle–if we meet and defeat their attempts to silence and punish us–then the movement will gain further initiative and pull many more people into the struggle against mass incarceration.
On October 23rd, I am calling on you to stand with us. The fate of this policy and those thousands of youth crushed underfoot is bound up within this case, and cases like these. Join us at court in Queens and pack the courtroom, call in the DA’s office and demand they drop the charges – speak up and fight back.
Jamel Mims is a multimedia artist, hip hop pedagogue, and Freedom Fighter who currently lives in Harlem. He can be followed on Twitter here.
Queens Criminal Court 10/23/12
One of our supporters faxed the letter posted below, and received the following response:
"The defendants were charged with obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct for intentionally blocking the entrance to the 103rd Precinct, thereby preventing members of the public and police from entering or exiting the building. They have elected to take their cases to trial, which is their right."
Queens County District Attorney Office
Attn: Mr. Richard A. Brown
125-01 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, N.Y. 11415
Dear Mr. Brown,
I am writing you to ask that you drop the charges against those protesting against the NYPD (New York City Police Department) racist and unconstitutional “stop and frisk” policy. I'm asking you to drop the charges against Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Robert Parsons and Morgan Rhodewalt who will begin trial tomorrow, Tuesday Oct. 23rd, in Queens Criminal Court at 9AM.
Recent reports show wide spread abuse of the unconstitutional stop and frisk policy on behalf of the New York City Police Department. In 2011 there were 684,330 stop and frisks conducted by the NYPD and to date they are on record to stop over 700,000 innocent civilians this year with over 87% of those stopped being Black or Latino. In Brownsville, Brooklyn 93 out of every 100 residents were stopped unconstitutionally by the NYPD and as a result more Black men were stopped by the NYPD than there are living in New York City. Such outrageous abuse creates a great divide between the community and the New York City Police Department.
Those protesting and exercising their first amendment rights against the NYPD and their unconstitutional stop and frisk policy should be commended for their actions and bringing this outrageous abusive policy into the spotlight and they should not be put on trial. Rather, I believe the District Attorneys Office should focus more of it's time and attention on the New York City Police Department and their racist and unconstitutional practices.
I urge you to drop the charges against the stop and frisk protesters Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Robert Parsons and Morgan Rhodewalt. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me at anytime.
Cornel West: "I speak in strong support and solidarity for my brothers and comrades -- I’m talking about Brother Carl, Brother Jamel, Brother Robert, Brother Morgan – October 23rd in Queens; and my dear brother Noche – October 30th.
And I speak in solidarity for them to be free, to be treated fairly; and for the focus to be both on their efforts and the cause for which they’re willing to sacrifice – which is this vicious stop-and-frisk in New York City, which is racist, unconstitutional, immoral and illegal.."
Thirteen of us face more than 2 years in jail for a non-violent protest of stop-and-frisk, the unjust, racist policy of the NYPD, on Nov 19, 2011 at the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica, Queens. A trial for four of us, including myself, trial begins Tuesday, October 23, and we need your help to stop this unjust prosecution.
Since the NYPD killed Amadou Diallo in 1999, they have killed 219 more people, including Noel Polanco, un-armed and killed with a shot to the stomach at close range this month for “driving erratically.” Days ago, police officers were taped savagely beating a homeless man inside a shelter. The NYPD flagrantly abuses peoples’ rights, unreasonably stopping and searching hundreds of thousands. And they almost never get prosecuted.
Stop-and-frisk enmeshes thousands of people in the criminal justice system. The NYPD stopped and searched more than 1,900 people each day in 2011. More than 85% of those stopped were either Black or Latino, and 90% of those stopped were found to have done nothing wrong. Some of the 10% of those ticketed and arrested had done nothing wrong either, because cops routinely arrest people for not having an ID, or for asserting their rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
The four defendants going on trial in Queens next week are among 63 who were arrested in response to the call issued by Cornel West and I to join a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience to STOP stop-and-frisk. 20 of us were convicted of disorderly conduct in Harlem, but given no jail time. 19 of us still face trial in Queens and Brooklyn. Instead being tried and locked up, people who put their bodies on the line to fight injustice should be commended for serving the public interest. Lawsuits, marches, raucus public hearings, and mass outrage are putting Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly on the defensive about stop and frisk. “Courtroom clashes have amplified the debate," says an Associated Press story this week, citing our protest and Harlem trial.
Now the Queens District Attorney office is piling charges on us. Ten months after the protest, the DA added a charge which carries an additional year of jail time, without citing anything additional the defendants had done. Last week, the DA changed the charges again, adding "acting in concert," to make his burden of proof easier, because we protested as a group. This is the DA who was unable, or unwilling, to effectively prosecute the cops who murdered Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets in 2006.
The prosecution is pushing for those who resist injustice to pay a heavy price, to send a message to others not to protest. We intend to defeat these charges in a way that builds the fight to stop stop-and-frisk. It’s important that the prosecutors feel the political support we have in opposing stop-and-frisk. Here’s what you can do:
§ Call the District Attorney: On Monday October 22, between the hours of 9am and 5:00 pm EST, call the office of District Attorney Richard A Brown at 718 286 6000. Ask that all charges from November 19, 2011 be dropped on Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Robert Parsons and Morgan Rhodewalt.
§ Come support us in court, Tuesday October 23. Supporters will rally outside Queens Criminal Court, 125-01 Queens Boulevard at 8:45 am. The trial begins at 9:30 and is expected to last several days. See stopmassincarceration.org for updates.
§ Contribute funds to help meet the costs ($7,000 so far) incurred in waging this court battle. Make a tax deductible donation and/or buy tickets to a fundraising party Tuesday October 30, 6:30 pm at St. Augustine’s Church on the Lower East Side.
Please help the New Freedom Fighters defeat the unjust charges, stay out of jail, and stop stop-and-frisk.
Thank you, Carl Dix