Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are Occupy Wall Streeters the New Civil Rights Activists

The first day in November had a group of protesters and local media converge on Brownsville for a Stop Stop and Frisk protest rally and march to the 73rd Police Precinct. The rally was held underneath the busy, noisy Rockaway Avenue #3 train station. Key spokespeople included Revolutionary Communist Party, USA's Carl Dix and MADRE Vice President Margaret Ratner-Kunstler.

The protest group was small and the absence of Brownsville residents was too apparent. Juxtaposed to the assembly were sky-reaching NYCHA buildings. Where were Brownsville residents in this struggle to stop police brutality? Had the police effectively intimidated the community? The answer is NO.

Key community organizations and churches hadn't been contacted so that they, in turn, could notify their members or neighbors. It appeared as if residents became aware of Stop Stop and Frisk as it unfolded. Three young men who said they were from the neighborhood agreed to talk in front of a camera, if one came their way. A young woman News 12 reporter stated she had enough footage and thought "it is more important that young whites came to Brownsville for this protest than to interview people from the neighborhood."

One media relations spokesperson(young, tall white man)explained that the handbills for this event had been distributed within the apartments in the NYCHA building. The question is who passed them out? New York City is a racially-polarized city. New York's communities of color are in the throws of a 20-year housing displacement process and look circumspectly at most whites visiting their neighborhoods. The majority of New York victims of police brutality are black and Latino men. It is quite possible that if white or Asian people were handing out the paper in the building, residents may have discarded them without consideration. Yes, kill the message because of the messenger.

The speakers were inspiring, one young man recounted his brush with stop and frisk which resulted in brain injury and confiscation of his identification. Carl Dix apologized for Cornell West's absence. He explained that Brownsville had the highest incidence of Stop and Frisk in the five boroughs. He later stated that "The young people here are today's Freedom Riders...or a new generation of Freedom Riders." So this is what the News 12 reporter wanted to capture. Dix affirmed that this Stop Stop and Frisk demonstration was the start of others throughout the five boroughs.

The march soon commenced. In tow was a colorfully, fashionable wheel-chair bound woman who identified herself as the "Mayor of Brownsville." She expressed disappointment in her neighbors' low turnout. However, things picked up as the group drummed and chanted up Rockaway Avenue to Pitkin Ave, then a turn on Bristol Street to reach the 73rd Precinct at Bristol and East New York Avenue. The community looked with interest, accepted the handbills and some joined the march. There was a police escort from start to end.

The police set up a corral for marchers who didn't want to be arrested. Many that initially went within the corral soon exited in favor of standing farther away from the precinct's doors. Thirty people were arrested and put in police wagons to places unknown within a half-hour. The police, then made a human wall and walked slowly down the sidewalk to sweep away the remaining assembly. As the body turned down Bristol to return to the corner of Livonia and Rockaway, a zealous young white man shouted "F?#@ the police!" A black man told him, "Hey, don't[don't do that]on their turf!" No sooner had the advice been given than the police arrested the man who cursed.

The march back was punctuated with chanting and handbill passing. Mimi Rosenberg, Legal Aid Society lawyer and WBAI program host was in the crowd. Rosenberg had quietly advised people against going in the corral in front the police precinct. The march birthed a new social activist. A young girl, escorted by two women, had held a poster, chanted and marched with much enthusiasm. This is but one important outcome: people need to develop self-assurance and a sense of community ownership at a young age. Margaret Ratner-Kunstler made concluding remarks before the group dispersed. Ratner-Kunstler stated the thirty arrested protesters may have been taken to the 77th Precinct. This was confirmed by someone in the crowd that recognized one 77th Precinct community affairs officer.

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