As civil rights leaders and members of congress spoke out against racial profiling at a hearing hosted by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, a group of NYU students also gathered in front of Bobst for a public speak-out against racial profiling, bigotry and the surveillance of Muslim students.
The speak-out, like the hearing, was inspired by the highly controversial death of Trayvon Martin,the Miami teen who was shot almost two months ago by ‘neighborhood watchman’ George Zimmerman.
Several speakers at the rally also referred to the isolated cases of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year old Iraqi Muslim woman who died after being brutally beaten last month, Troy Davis, who was exercuted in Georgia last year, and Ramarley Graham, an 18-year old who was shot by police while unarmed in his Bronx home last month.
“This issue of racial profiling is much more pervasive than just these individuals we are here for,” said Alicia Bell, a member of the NYU Troy Davis Response Collective. Since the Trayvon Martin case gained media attention, rallies have been organized across the nation to demand justice for Martin, as well as address broader issues of racism and unfair police practices. Protestors chanted and held up signs denouncing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, which disproportionately targets minority neighborhoods.
“This is one of the most racist policies we have seen since the Jim Crow laws were abolished,” said Erin Weber about the stop-and-frisk initiative. According to statistics collected from the police department by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the police conducted a record 684,330 stop and frisks last year, and 87 percent of those stopped were Hispanic or black. Only about 10 percent of those stopped were arrested or issued summons, and only one percent of those stopped had a weapon.
Some students also expressed concerns about racial prejudice on campus, from the NYPD spying on Muslim students to other minority students feeling uncomfortable on campus.
“Students of color are stopped by security and asked why they are here; we need to make sure that our security guards make us feel safe” said Asia Dorsey, one of the speak-out organizers.
“We definitely want to build an anti-rascist presence on campus,” said Sean Larson, an organizer for the speak-out. Some students are optimistic that more rallies will inspire more change through small steps, beginning on campus.
“The problems are so imbedded in our society it’s going to take a long time for big changes to happen,” said Emma Sheahan. “But I think people are at least starting to understand more, given recent incidences like the Trayvon Martin Case.”
Video by McKenzie Beehler, article by Florence Madenga.