MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — Activist Cornel West and about than two-dozen opponents of the NYPD's controversial stop and frisk policy will be showing strength in numbers at a criminal trial expected to begin in April.
At a Manhattan Criminal Court hearing Thursday, West refused to take a conditional dismissal offer for disorderly conduct charges.
The renowned Princeton University professor and activist, had been among a group of 200 demonstrators opposing the policy who gathered in front of the state building on 125th Street in Harlem on Oct. 21, 2011. About 34 were arrested.
Critics charge that stop and frisk, which allows police to search people who they believe are involved in crimes, unfairly targets members of minority communities and is a clear violation of the civil rights of people who are searched.
A recent study showed that just 12 percent of stop and frisks performed in New York in 2011 resulted in criminal charges, but the police department has defended the practice, saying the numbers reflect the racial breakdown of people charged with crimes.
West's case was called briefly and he turned down the dismissal offer made by prosecutors. A trial date was set for April 30 and Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Schecter ordered the cases consolidated.
That means at least about two dozen defendants are expected to be on trial together to fight the charges.
"The city knows there's an increase in consciousness of stop and frisk issues and we get a chance to dramatize it in a much more intense manner and that's beautiful," West said of the upcoming trial.
Many of the more than 21 people who appeared alongside West on Thursday were offered the same conditional dismissal deal and rejected it, setting the stage for an unusual civil disobedience-based trial.
"We will go to jail for you," West told police shortly before he was handcuffed at the event last year. "If you got to take us to jail, get ready to take us to jail."
It is unclear how many demonstrators who were arrested have yet to appear in court and how many are being formally charged by prosecutors.