Revolution #252, December 11, 2011

New York: Student Action to STOP "Stop and Frisk"

Revolution received the following report from a reader:

December 2, 2011: In coordination with Columbia University's Students Against Mass Incarceration and other students around the city, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network hosted a Student Day of Action. Previous actions organized by the network, which have carried out nonviolent civil disobedience at police precincts in Harlem, Brooklyn and Queens—have led to dozens of arrests. This action focused on "bearing witness"—it featured testimonies from those who have been stopped and frisked, and culminated with a "Frisk-In": a piece of live street theatre, dramatizing the brutality of the stop-and-frisk policy, and the need for a struggle to put an end to it.

This action was part of the movement to stop mass incarceration, which has initiated determined struggle to end the racist, illegitimate¸ illegal practice of stop and frisk by the NYPD. The police are on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people this year alone. Eighty-five percent of those stopped and frisked are Black and Latino, and 90 percent of them are found to be not doing anything wrong at all. NYPD records list pretexts for these stops such as: "Furtive movement," "Appears to be lookout," "Fits description," and "Suspicious clothing."

The march began with 60 people at Pace University: students from Columbia, NYU, Pace, members of Occupy Wall Street and others, where we rallied and announced that, despite putting out that we would conduct civil disobedience at 1 Police Plaza, we were going to an alternate location. As we marched to an almost empty Zuccotti Park [since the police have cleared out the Occupy Wall Street encampment and have set up barricades], our numbers swelled to 100 people. We then went to Smith Housing Projects, the largest single housing unit on the Lower East Side—a stone's throw away from the courthouse at 100 Centre Street. After a brief rally, where a formerly incarcerated member of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and resident of the Lower East Side spoke on the significance of Smith houses, we proceeded to the Manhattan Criminal Courts building where we carried out the "frisk-in." One organizer, dressed in a pig mask with a police officer's cap, frisked a line of activists, who "assumed the position" on their knees with hands behind their backs. One of the activists shouts the Cosby-esque line: "This would all just end if you just pulled your pants up." Further down the line, someone says "something's wrong here... shouldn't we prevent this pig from harassing us." The activists lock arms and rise to their feet, surround the cop, and chant "Stop and frisk don't stop the crime, Stop and frisk IS the crime!"

The plan was made for a Student Day of Action soon after the first civil disobedience action in Harlem against stop and frisk —and was proposed by the STOP "Stop & Frisk" campus outreach working group, composed of grassroots organizers, students and teachers. Coming off of the first couple actions, where four student organizers from Columbia were arrested, the mission of the Student Day of Action became to answer the call to foster a whole new generation of freedom fighters, and recognize the decisive and influential role that students play in all this.

Those who participated in the march were visibly exhilarated—not only by the content of our chants and theatre, but also in response to knowing that we were giving the runaround to the police. At a planning meeting at Columbia beforehand, we discussed how we should put a student spin on things, and really open up the space for students to come out and bear witness, and stand in solidarity with those who have put their bodies on the line to stop all this. A student brought up dramatizing the event through dressing up and doing street theatre, and more specifically, conducting a "frisk-in" similar to the "die-ins" done at anti-war protests.

In the greater fight to end stop and frisk, important progress was made: not only in adding more students and student organizations to the numbers of people prepared to come out and bear witness or conduct civil disobedience—but also contributing to engendering a culture and atmosphere of resistance and spirited defiance for the illegitimate actions of the police. In combination with giving [NYPD Police Chief] Ray Kelly the Bull Connor Award at Columbia University (see press release posted at, the Student Day of Action "frisk-in" is a representative action that contributes to demystifying the nature and role of the police in this system, and popularizing the spirit of defiance of the new Freedom Fighters, overall.

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