Residents in one New York City neighborhood received a firsthand lesson in the protections inherent in white privilege this weekend, as anti-police violence activist groups—led by the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP)—hit the streets of Park Slope. Members spent Sunday afternoon in the predominantly white Brooklyn neighborhood issuing fake summonses that mirror the offenses that regularly result in actual tickets and harassment for people of color.
“Blocking the sidewalk, jaywalking—those are the two main activities where we found white people were violating some aspect of the municipal code,” PROP founder Robert Gangi told Waging Nonviolence. “The point of [the action] is to put into sharp relief how starkly discriminatory police practices are. White people in Park Slope virtually never get ticketed for these kind of activities whereas African-American and Latino people in different neighborhoods in this city will get sanctioned—ticketed and sometimes arrested—for these kind of activities on a regular basis.”
New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton famously employs a “broken windows” policing policy, which is built on the belief that cracking down on small offenses—like jaywalking—will deter criminals from committing major offenses. But in a city where 90 percent of those “randomly” stopped by the police are people of color, and the New York Daily News found that 81 percent of those ticketed for minor infractions are black or Latino, opponents argue that the department is disproportionately targeting people who are not white. “Part of what’s so deeply offensive about broken windows policing is that it’s a form of bullying,” Gangi said. “It is basically targeting and harassing people who have limited resources, both politically and financially, to fight back.”
While some of the 50+ residents they stopped responded positively and even signed PROP’s petition to squash broken windows policing and end NYPD ticketing quotas, others were upset. “The worst response—which to me is the best because it highlights the truth of how people are really entitled and privileged out here in Park Slope—was from a woman who was just incredulous about being stopped,” said Josmar Trujillo, a member of the Coalition to End Broken Windows. “She was like ‘This is Park Slope!’ and she just kind of made it a point to say that in this neighborhood, this doesn’t happen.”
(H/t Waging Nonviolence)