Updated 06/18/2012 09:27 AM
Silent Stop-And-Frisk March Carries Loud Message Down Fifth
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Thousands of civil rights activists took part in a silent march through Harlem Sunday, calling for an end to racial profiling and the New York City Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy.
The Reverend Al Sharpton and NAACP President Ben Jealous joined the families of Trayvon Martin and Ramarley Graham as they walked along Fifth Avenue from 110th Street to 79th Street to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's residence.
"It's incredible to be walking with tens and tens of thousands of other people and hear the birds chirping," Jealous said.
"Sometimes in a city as noisy as New York with Times Square and Broadway and festivals. Sometimes silence is the loudest statement you can make," Sharpton said.
Critics say the stop-and-frisk policy unfairly targets hundreds of thousands of blacks and Latinos each year.
"It just kind of takes away your manhood when they do certain things, touch certain places. But you know at the end of the day, you know, and we're all trying to have a safe city. And we don't want the violence but at the end of the day stop-and-frisk targets certain people and that's what need to change," said one march participant.
"I felt harassed, I was just minding my business. I just got dropped off from a basketball game, I just walked one block and the cops just told me to stop for no reason and then they locked me up," said another participant.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have defended stop-and-frisk as an effective way to get guns off the streets and save lives.
Speaking to the Christian Cultural Center in East New York earlier Sunday, Bloomberg again defended the program but acknowledged some improvements are needed.
"I understand why some people want us to stop making stops. Innocent people who are stopped can be treated disrespectfully. That is not acceptable," Bloomberg said. "If you’ve done nothing wrong, you deserve nothing but respect and courtesy from the police."
Bloomberg said the police commissioner expects the number of stops to decline in the coming months.
He also said he continues to meet with Reverend Al Sharpton to work on improving police-community relations.
For the most part, the march was not only silent, but also peaceful and orderly. Where things got a bit chaotic was near the march's conclusion, where some protesters clashed with police seeking to disperse the crowd.
NY1's cameras caught four different protesters being arrested; the NYPD reported nine arrests altogether.
Meanwhile, at a National Action Network rally Saturday, Franclot Graham said he wants a conviction and prison time for the officer who shot his son.
Tracey Martin also talked about obtaining justice for his son's shooting death.
"If I stop marching, if I stop protesting, everything's going to come to a standstill. If this was your child, would you stop marching? Would you stop protesting?" Martin said.
"I will spend the rest of my life living for my son, cause my son could be your son, and your son will be my son," Graham said.
Investigators say Ramarley Graham was unarmed when he was shot to death inside his Bronx home.
Police Officer Richard Haste was arraigned on manslaughter charges in the case last week.
Trayvon Martin, 17, also was unarmed when he was gunned down in Florida.
Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder in Martin's death.