On April 26, 2007, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of three Black activists who were manhandled and arrested while peacefully and lawfully filming New York Police Department officers in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn as part of a CopWatch program on the evening of February 9, 2005. All charges against the three were later dismissed.
The suit charges that the constitutional rights of the three plaintiffs - Lumumba Bandele, Djibril Toure, and David Floyd - were violated when they were falsely arrested and imprisoned by the police officers on the scene. Recovered videotape of the scene leading up to the arrests shows the men doing nothing to provoke the officers. The case will be filed in the Southern District.
Mr. Toure was also a plaintiff in CCR's landmark racial profiling case Daniels v. City of New York which led the NYPD to disband the notorious Street Crimes Unit in the wake of the Amadou Diallo shooting. In light of the recently released stop-and-frisk data and failure on the part of the City to comply with the consent decree, CCR is exploring methods to enforce the consent decree issued in the Daniels case.
Said CCR attorney Kamau Franklin, "These activists were taking steps to stop racial profiling in their community. In trying to stop the police from violating the rights of others, they had their own rights violated."
Mr. Bandele, Mr. Toure, and Mr. Floyd are all members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a community-based organization headquartered in Brooklyn that seeks to politically empower the Black community. On the evening of February 9, 2005, the three were participating in MXGM's CopWatch, a program modeled after police accountability activities of the Black Panthers that seeks to expose, document, and deter instances of police misconduct and abuse in the Black community by peacefully patrolling neighborhoods where police misconduct and violence are rampant.
When they observed a number of police officers and patrol cars near the intersection of Greene Street and Throop Avenue, the three learned that the officers were in the process of arresting two people. They began to videotape the scene, remaining at all times at a lawful distance from the officers. Officer Thomas Stevens approached the three and ordered them to leave the area. Mr. Bandele, Mr. Toure, and Mr. Floyd complied with the request and backed away from the scene. Officer Stevens then pushed Mr. Bandele and Mr. Floyd, knocking the camera and Mr. Floyd to the ground. The three were then arrested and placed in custody.
Mr. Toure was charged with assault in the third degree, and Mr. Bandele, Mr. Toure, and Mr. Floyd were charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration, even though they did nothing illegal and did not resist arrest in any way. Officer Stevens later swore under oath that the charges were true, even though he knew them to be false. On July 17, 2006, all charges against the three were dismissed by order of the Kings County District Attorney due to Officer Stevens' failure to cooperate with the District Attorney's office.
Said Lumumba Bandele, "If there was really some justice in this system, the charges against us should have been dismissed immediately and instead Stevens, the cop that arrested us, should have been charged with abuse of authority."
In New York City, stop-and-frisks have increased by more than 500 percent since 2002, from 97,296 in 2002 to 508,540 in 2006, according to data released by the NYPD in February of this year. More than half of those stopped were Black; Whites made up only 11.1 percent of the stops. In comparison, 44 percent of the NYC population is White and only 25 percent of the population is Black.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.