Thousands marched in silence down Fifth Avenue to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's town house on East 79th street Sunday to protest the NYPD's controversial "stop and frisk" policy, which generally has focused on minority youth since its inception.
The Father's Day march was meant to commemorate the grief that fathers feel when their young sons are harassed or hurt by law-enforcement action, participants said.
On the minds of the marchers were Ramarley Graham, a teen whom police suspected of possessing drugs and was shot by an officer in the Bronx in February, and Trayvon Martin, shot in Florida that month by a neighborhood watch volunteer, as well as the many predominantly young men stopped by police daily.
"It's not so much that you stop people, but how you harass and disrespect them and then don't find anything," said Jerry Oden, 56, of Jamaica, Queens, who marched with his son, Amin. Earlier this year, police stopped and frisked Amin Oden when he was returning home from basketball practice and called him a loser before they drove away, he said.
Though the demonstration was peaceful for most of the afternoon, at least nine protesters were arrested near Bloomberg's home toward the end of the march, witnesses and police said.
One woman was seen wrestling with police before being arrested. A police spokeswoman was uncertain of charges. The National Lawyers Guild, which had 25 legal observers at the march, said it was working to get the protesters out of jail Sunday night.
Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have said the stop and frisk policy is an important tool that helps catch armed criminals and get guns off the streets. But critics like the Rev. Al Sharpton, who walked at the vanguard of the march, point to the numbers: 684,330 people were stopped in the city last year and guns were found in fewer than 0.2 percent of the cases. Further, 87 percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic, according to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union.
"We want to walk through the area and not see our children spread against cars or put up against the wall," Sharpton said down the block from the mayor's Upper East Side home.
The mayor has said recently that he may be amenable to scaling back the practice.
It was not known if Bloomberg was at home when the protesters passed.
The marchers walked silently, without chanting, down Fifth Avenue before slowly dispersing at 79th Street.
Occasionally, people shushed each other's overly loud conversation. However, after Sharpton's departure, a crowd of a few hundred demonstrators started chanting, "Police are violent. We will not be silent," before they were slowly shepherded down Fifth Avenue.
With Marc Beja and AP