Rockland County minorities face widespread racial profiling, NAACP regional director Wilbur Aldridge said Sunday as a 100-member delegation joined a silent march to protest the stop-and-frisk tactics of New York City police.
In a telephone interview, Aldridge called for municipalities and law enforcement agencies to adopt policies to combat continued racial profiling and stereotyping in Rockland County.
"We've just been lucky that we haven't had a Trayvon Martin situation in Rockland County," he said, referring to the black Florida teenager shot dead in February by a neighborhood watchman who has been charged with murder.
"Most of the calls occur in the Town of Ramapo," he said of complaints about racial profiling. "It happens in Spring Valley. It happens in every town in Rockland County. It's driving while [being] black and walking while [being] black. Sometimes it's just being black."
Calls seeking comments from the offices of Town of Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin were not immediately successful.
Though several municipalities have racial-profiling policies, Aldridge charged that they are weak and inconsistent.
He called on Rockland municipalities and police agencies to adopt stronger policies against racial profiling as nearly 300 groups gathered to walk down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. They united to protest the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy that critics say demeans blacks and Hispanics who have broken no law. Nine people were arrested on charges including resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Aldridge said that the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy is based on the same racial-profiling regimen seen in Rockland County.
In 2011, the NYPD stopped 685,000 people, most of them black and Hispanic men, compared with 97,000 in 2001, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg defend the policy, saying it keeps guns off city streets.
Aldridge said the Rockland NAACP delegation went to the march by bus and private cars and included members and nonmembers. Aldridge said he did not attend because of health issues.
Frances Pratt, president of the Nyack NAACP and a participant in the protest, said the marchers remained mute on their path from Harlem to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's town house on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Racial profiling, she said, underlies the NYPD policy and police practices in Rockland and throughout the country.
"It's universal," she said. "Wherever there are black boys driving, they get stopped and searched."
Those views were echoed by the head of the NAACP national organization.
"In most cities, when you ask who gets beaten up by the cops, the answer comes back: black people, people of color and the gay community," Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP, said on MSNBC.
The practice of silent marches dates to 1917, when the NAACP led a protest through New York against lynchings and segregation in the U.S.
Speaking at a Christian cultural center Sunday in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said he is working with police to ensure that people are treated respectfully when they are stopped.
"I cannot in good conscience walk away from work that I know will save the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, and I will not," the mayor said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.