By Linda Tarrant-Reid
We’ve all heard the stories or know someone, personally, who has been stopped by the po-po, without provocation. I’m talking about living, walking, and driving while Black and male in America – the Brothers can be stopped, questioned and frisked for no apparent reason, other than the color of their complexion.
Just read recently where actor Giancarlo Esposito was stopped and frisked at gunpoint in the Times Square area by NYC’s Finest while leaving a theater where he was rehearsing for a play. The Brother, who is known for his role on AMC’s drama series Breaking Bad as the notorious meth kingpin Gustavo Fring was not in character and was dressed in a suit, but the cops had profiled him as the suspect they were chasing who was wearing a “hoodie.” Sound familiar?
Esposito, who is known for his many bad guy roles and as an ensemble cast member of Spike Lee’s films Do the Right Thing and School Daze, is biracial and the son of an African American mother and Italian father. He took his ordeal in stride noting that in a recent interview published in “TheWrap,” an online blog:
“I refuse to walk around, carrying that sack of racist crap,” he said. “Luis Buñuel [filmmaker] made great movies. And in all his movies there’s one old guy… who walks through the background with a big pillowcase, a sack of shit. That’s your stuff. So when I’m healing, I’m healing my stuff.”
I actually think that stop & frisk is all of our stuff. Although I get where Giancarlo is coming from, but I believe that we are, after all, our Brother’s keeper, especially in New York City where the majority of those individuals who are stopped and frisked are Black or Latino and are innocent of any wrongdoing.
According to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) in the first three months of 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 203,500 times. Of those stopped, 89% were totally innocent of any crime; 54% were Black and 33% were Latino. To that specific point, there is a new app out, a Stop & Frisk Watch Android App, that lets anyone record, listen and report an incident with their smartphones, including audio. The user then uploads the video to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
This new smartphone technology was first developed during the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” by software developer Jason Van Anden, the creator of the “I’m Getting Arrested” app.
These apps level the playing field for individuals who are unfairly targeted by police as they go about their business. They provide an unbiased digital account which offers a degree of protection in a police encounter. The Stop & Frisk Watch app is currently available as a free download at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.nyclu.stop.and.frisk.watch for Android phones. An iPhone version is scheduled for release in August.
“Stop and Frisk Watch is about empowering individuals and community groups to confront abusive, discriminatory policing,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “
NYPD’s Stop & Frisk Campaign is not new, this is just another iteration of “show me your pass” which controlled the movements of the enslaved during the 18th and 19th century. Instead of the police, overseers and other forms of white authority would demand to see the paperwork of the enslaved if they were away from the plantation and traveling on their own without their White master.
After slavery was abolished in the United States in 1863, African Americans were still subject to ridiculous restrictions that limited their movements and their rights as American citizens. Even in the 21st century, with an African American president, there are communities across America that are considered “sundown towns” which have an unspoken policy of “no Blacks after sundown.” If an African American is unfortunate enough to be in a sundown town after dark the consequences could be brutal, from arrest without probable cause to physical violence.
The Stop & Frisk Watch app is definitely a step in the right direction for any concerned citizen who witnesses an unlawful stop by the police in New York City, but currently it is only available in NYC. It would be an extremely useful tool if the American Civil Liberties Unions in cities that are experiencing a rash of stop & frisk activity adopted this new program as well, to stem unlawful detentions and interrogations. Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s PoliticsNation, and the National Action Network took to the streets of New York City on Father’s Day in a silent march.
Thousands participated including local politicians, community organizers and representatives from 20 organizations. The march, which began in Harlem and ended at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Eastside townhouse, protested stop & frisk policies and was an opportunity to bring these injustices to light.