Art By: http://www.banksy.co.uk/

A victory for citizens in New York City, who’s First Amendment rights have been repeatedly violated by the NYPD, has been won in court.

New York’s laws prohibiting loitering, pan handling and “cruising“, a popular way that gay men hang around at various known places to meet other gay men for the purpose of sex, have once again been declared unconstitutional. Thousands of gay men have been arrested since the courts first declares the anti-loitering laws illegal almost 30 years ago in 1983. According to the New York Times, Katie Rosenfeld, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, said it had brought accountability. “All of the people who got charged under these statutes had not very much power: homeless people, gay people, marginalized people, vulnerable people,” she said.

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How many times have people of color, particularly in the outer boroughs such as the Bronx have been victimized by the police for simply “hanging out”? A book review in The Economist  back in September of last year for A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America had this to say:

“The pattern was repeated around the country. As a result, America’s prison population, like New York’s, rose fivefold from 1980 to 2009. The impact has been particularly strong in poor and minority communities: one in 11 black adults are under correctional supervision, compared with one in 45 whites. And 25% of children in much of Harlem and the South Bronx have had one of their parents imprisoned.

This does not indicate a violent-crime problem: in the South Bronx, only 3% of convictions are for felonies. The most common arrests are for loitering, vagrancy or drug use or possession. Collectively, these low-level, “quality of life” crimes account for nearly half of all arrests.”

The review of the book goes on further discussing the myriad of problems that this leads to and particularly how mothers can lose custody of their children.  (Make sure you read the review)

The laws had been repeatedly declared unconstitutional between 1983 and 1993 but the NYPD kept on with their illegal harassment of this segment of the population. What else do you expect from a police force who has a history of going after the disenfranchised or the killing of our youth?

Read more at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/nyregion/new-york-settles-suit-on-illegal-arrests-for-loitering.xml

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