Protesters carry signs during a silent march in Manhattan to protest the… (Seth Wenig / Associated…)
They weren’t there to make noise. Exactly the opposite.
Thousands of protesters took to New York streets in a silent march on Sunday afternoon to protest the preemptive NYPD "stop-and-frisk" policy that snared more than 600,000 people last year and, critics say, disproportionately targeted minorities.
The silent marchers traveled from Harlem to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan hardly saying a word, borrowing a tactic first used by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917 to protest lynching and race riots, organizers said.
Yet although the NAACP was involved in this march — Al Sharpton was too — 298 other groups participated, organizers said, including Arab American and Muslim groups, Jewish groups, LGBT groups, Korean groups and unions.
"In most cities, when you ask who gets beaten up by the cops, the answer comes back: black people, people of color and the gay community," NAACP head Benjamin Jealous said in a TV interview, according to the Associated Press.
The marchers broke their silence at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s home at East 77th Street, shouting, “We’ve got to fight back, we can’t be silent!” the AP reported.
Bloomberg and other city officials have conceded that the police department’s stop-and-frisk program should change, but they have stopped short of proposing an outright ban.
Bloomberg said that the program would be “mended, not ended,” and that new training videos and internal audits would soothe critics who believe the program violates civil rights and the city’s civil fabric, Reuters reported.
On Sunday, he gave a speech at the predominantly black Christian Culture Center in Brooklyn to discuss the program and told the audience, "We've sent a message to criminals. If we think you are carrying a gun, we are going to stop you,” the Guardian reported.
Samantha Tailor, a mother of two from the Bronx, told the AP that her 16-year-old son had been stopped with two friends on their way home from school for the second time in recent months.
"Thank God, he had his ID," Tailor said. "He wasn't doing anything wrong, just walking to school."
The Guardian reported that a skirmish broke out between marchers and the police when officers tried to move the marchers off a main road, at one point exposing a prostester’s breast as they arrested her.
"They're beating your people,” a Latino protester shouted at a black police officer as police arrested at least three more protesters, according to the Guardian.