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Cornel West Among Dozens Arrested at Stop and Frisk Protest

By Jeff Mays | October 21, 2011 5:03pm
Cornel West marches on West 125th Street in Harlem to protest the NYPD's stop and frisk policies.
Cornel West marches on West 125th Street in Harlem to protest the NYPD's stop and frisk policies.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — Dozens of protesters, including Cornel West, were arrested in Harlem Friday during a rally against the city's stop and frisk policy.

About 200 demonstrators gathered first at the State Office Building on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 125th Street before marching to the 28th Precinct stationhouse nearby.

West, a professor at Princeton University, said he was willing to be arrested because the policy, which allows police to stop and search people who they believe are involved in crimes, "zero[es] in on black and brown who are disproportionately targeted."

A 2010 report by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) found that over the previous six years, 150,000 stops were made without justification and more than 500,000 others were made without providing sufficient information to determine if they were justified.

The report also said that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be targeted than whites or Asians.

"We will go to jail for you," West said to police and the crowd shortly before being arrested. "If you got to take us to jail, get ready to take us to jail."

At least 30 protesters lined up in front of the 28th Precinct stationhouse and refused to move when asked to do so by the commander. They were then arrested.

One protester who intervened when police tried to arrest a photographer from Democracy Now, had to be carried to the police vehicle by his arms and legs when he refused to walk.

"The struggle is not going to be in courtrooms....congress...or corporations. It's going to be right here in the street where it belongs," said Annette Dickerson of CCR.

The Rev. Stephen Phelps of Riverside Church in Harlem said stop and frisk is illegal.

"Stop and frisk doesn't stop crime. Stop and frisk is the crime," he said.

John, a man who identified himself as a Navy veteran, said he and his friend were pulled over by police in Brooklyn and handcuffed. He says his car was searched and he and his friend were frisked.

"We had done nothing wrong. It was humiliating and and embarrassing," he said.

Debra Sweet, director of World Can't Wait, said she was protesting even though she had never been stopped and frisked.

"Apparently, I don't fit the profile," said Sweet, who is white. "The police are supposed to serve and protect, not humiliate and harass."

And protester Kafahni Nkrumah, a lawyer, said the police stopped him and tried to frisk him but he rebuffed them by explaining that he felt the stop was illegal.

"This rally is needed," he said. "We have to bring it to every borough."