On February 9, 2005 in New York, The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) denounced the arrest of three community organizers by officers of the New York Police Department on the night of February 8th. The arrest occurred when the three individuals were engaged in legal monitoring of police activities as part of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Copwatch Program.
One of the individuals arrested, Djibril Toure, was a plaintiff in CCR’s lawsuit, Daniels v. City of New York, which sought an injunction to disband the Department’s notorious Street Crime Unit (SCU) or bar it from stopping and frisking New York City residents based on the color of their skin without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The SCU was disbanded, the NYPD has for the first time put a racial profiling policy in place, and a class action settlement was approved in the Daniels case by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on December 12, 2003.
Toure, along with representatives from CCR, has been meeting regularly with members of the NYPD to plan a series of community forums on individuals’ rights during encounters with the police. In fact, Toure is scheduled to be a presenter on the material concerning individuals’ rights.
In addition to Toure, two other members of the Brooklyn-based Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Lumumba Bandele and Dasaw Floyd, were arrested in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn just past midnight on the morning of the eight of February. According to Bandele, he, Floyd and Toure were driving down Greene Avenue and observed an unusual amount of police activity on the block. They were told by a witness to the events that the police were beating someone. Bandele, Toure and Floyd were walking toward the scene with a video recorder in hand when they were stopped by an officer who told them that they had to leave. Bandele told the officer that they had a legal right to observe the activities and that they were not interfering with the arrest, only witnessing it. At that point, the officer placed the three under arrest, charging them with assault and obstruction of governmental administration. At no point had the three touched or provoked the officer, they had simply stated their rights to observe police actions.
"This arrest is outrageous," said Kamau Karl Franklin, attorney for the three. "They were involved in completely legal activities, and the irony is that their treatment by police underscores the very need for a program such as Copwatch.”
“If police officers are acting lawfully, they should have nothing to fear from video documentation,” comments Jeffrey Fogel, Legal Director of CCR. “The arrest of these three activists not only violates the first and fourth amendments of the Constitution, it is a slap in the face of communities who have suffered from police repression for too long.”