Victimized youth organize against police brutality

By Kathy Durkin,, Jun 14, 2007

It was a somber day in May. Thirty-two grieving young people were walking to the subway train in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood. They were on their way to a wake for a friend, Donnell McFarland, who had been tragically murdered at the age of 18.

Then, like a bolt from the blue, as the youth neared the Myrtle Avenue station, police swooped down on them, harassing, cursing, and terrorizing them. They were all searched; nothing illegal was found.

All of these Black and Latin@ women and men—some as young as 13 years old—were handcuffed, arrested and taken to the 83rd police precinct. The majority were charged with so-called unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct. Several were held overnight, some for 38 hours.

In his investigation of the horrendous May 21 police attack, journalist Bob Herbert interviewed several of the young people involved, who are all students at Bushwick Community High School, as well as other eyewitnesses including Kathleen Williams, a parent who was traveling with them. Everyone said that youth did absolutely nothing wrong. Williams was threatened with arrest herself when she objected to the arrests. (New York Times, 5/26/07)

The police even taunted them about their deceased friend. And later, to justify their outrageous actions, the cops pointed to the memorial T-shirts the youth were wearing with McFarland’s picture on them, and tried to claim the gathering was “gang-related.”

The young people called it what it was—a clear-cut case of racial profiling.

This is business as usual by New York City police. The callous mistreatment, racist humiliation, harassment and intimidation of youth from oppressed communities is a commonplace, citywide occurrence—on the streets, in the subways and even inside the schools.

There is a reign of terror against the Black and Latin@ youth of this city.

In fact, by their own admission, a New York Police Department report issued earlier this year stated that cops stopped-and-frisked 508,540 people in 2006, 85 percent of whom were Black or Latin@. The majority of these intimidating acts were leveled against young oppressed women and men.

Inside the schools, thousands of students every semester are verbally abused, intimidated, threatened, sexually harassed and physically assaulted by cops and security guards. Teachers and parents who come to their aid are also targeted.

A New York Civil Liberties Union report issued in March, “Criminalizing the Classroom: The Over-Policing of New York City Schools,” details the aggressive practices of the New York Police Department’s so-called School Safety Division, which subjects students to “invasive practices and other forms of abuse everyday by nearly 5,000 SSA’s, many of whom are armed.” (

But the students are fighting back! On June 5, the Student Coalition against Racial Profiling met with City Council members and community organizers to organize opposition to these racist police practices. Among those attending was City Councilperson Charles Barron, who expressed his solidarity with the young people there.

Dana Jordan, a Bushwick Community High School senior and a founder of SCARP, said, “We are coming together to let the community know what has been going on with the cops, the excessive stop-and-frisks, the profiling, to let them know that it is time for a change in our community. We started SCARP because we wanted the community to know that we are trying to fight this battle against police profiling and that we need their support.” (New York Times, 6/6/07)

Public officials, right up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who have said nothing, must be held accountable. These racist attacks must be stopped!

The Bushwick 32 will be in court in mid-July. This is a time for progressive organizations and activists to come out in solidarity with them and to spur a larger struggle to stand with the oppressed youth of this city and demand an end to police abuse.

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