Protesters of Police Stop-and-Frisk Practice Are Arrested

Cornel West, in tie, with other protesters against the police's stop-and-frisk policy outside the 28th Precinct station house in Harlem on Friday.
Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Cornel West, in tie, with other protesters against the police’s stop-and-frisk policy outside the 28th Precinct station house in Harlem on Friday.

About 30 people, including the civil rights campaigner and Princeton professor Cornel West, were arrested Friday outside a police station in Harlem during a protest of the police practice known as stop-and-frisk.

Dozens of activists and people who described themselves as victims of stop-and-frisk began their demonstration in front of the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 125th Street, on a corner that Dr. West, an organizer of the rally, said had been “consecrated by giants like Malcolm X.” The group, chanting and holding signs, marched along 125th Street, past the Apollo Theater, to the 28th Police Precinct station house, on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.


The practice of stop-and-frisk, in which the police stop people on the street and sometimes frisk them, has been criticized by minority and civil rights groups that complain that blacks and Hispanics are unfairly singled out. Last year the department made more than 600,000 of the warrantless stops, and it is on pace to exceed that number this year. While the police say there is a valid reason for the stops, including suspicious behavior, opponents of the practice note that very few stops result in arrests.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the tactic on his Friday morning radio show on WOR.

“It’s used in communities where we have lots of guns and lots of murder victims,” he said. “And we’ve brought crime down 35 percent in the last 10 years. We have — I don’t know — I don’t think we’re going to set a record for low murders, but we’ll have the second best year in the history of the city this year, and there’s a reason for those things, and this is one of the tactics.

“People say, ‘Oh, you can do it without that’; well, you know you have — nobody is ever going to — some people don’t want you to do anything,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

The result of doing nothing, he said, would be “a society you can’t live in.”

The demonstrators, surrounded by officers and fenced in by steel barricades at the police station, voiced anger about the policy, which they said was racist, intimidating and unjust because of its focus on young blacks and Hispanics.

“We have to come to terms with arbitrary police power,” Dr. West said as he kicked off the march, his words repeated, in Occupy Wall Street fashion, by a crowd that consisted of several drumming and chanting activists who came up from Zuccotti Park.

Dr. West underscored the solidarity of the protests, in what he called a unified front against financial and racial inequality, and he said the goal of the uptown rally was to “ensure that the rights of young folks, disproportionately poor and black and brown, are acknowledged and affirmed.”

Dr. West and other organizers had said that they intended to get arrested. Around 2:30, the police began to arrest the protesters who were close to the entrance to the station house.

Also among those arrested were Carl Dix, a national spokesman for the Revolutionary Communist Party; several local religious leaders; and James Vrettos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Those who were arrested were loaded onto police trucks and vans.

While virtually all of the arrests were uneventful, one activist, a member of a group called the People’s Patrol of New York City, was carried away by officers by his arms and legs — a scene that for a time angered dozens of demonstrators.

The police said that they did not have an exact number of those arrested and that charges were pending.