Tag Archives: NYC

Monday Long Read: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities

Photo via New York Magazine

This New York Magazine feature about the Big Brother-esque eye on the NYC Muslim community reminds us that Stop And Frisk isn’t all that’s wrong with the NYPD:

The Demographics Unit began simply enough, with a copy of the 2000 U.S. Census. The information was public, and the police used the data the way any sociologist could. They mapped, looking for 28 “ancestries of interest.” Nearly all were Muslim. There were Middle Eastern and South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Egypt. Former Soviet states like Uzbekistan and Chechnya were included because of their large Muslim populations. The last “ancestry” on the list was “American Black Muslim.”

At the NYPD, Cohen enjoyed an advantage he’d never had as a CIA analyst: a pool of recruits drawn from New York’s own neighborhoods. The FBI and CIA struggled to recruit native Arabic speakers, in part because it was prohibitively difficult for applicants with strong overseas ties to get security clearances. The NYPD didn’t have that problem. The police force had long been a stepping-stone to the middle class for immigrants. One in five Academy graduates was born overseas. So when Cohen went searching for officers who could blend in to Muslim neighborhoods, he didn’t have to look far. He recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

Every day, the rakers set out from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where the Demographics Unit was based, and visited businesses in teams of two. Their job was to look like any other young men stepping in off the street.

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, likeshalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu? Read More

Missed Connections NYC: The Not Quite Stopped and Frisked Edition

By Kendra James

Missed Connection (NYC, 2 Train): African American female searching for African American male she met while the NYPD went through her underwear…

Hey, so, I don’t know if you’re going to remember me–

Actually, scratch that. You have to remember me given what happened yesterday. And that’s ironic because I left my apartment specifically dressed to attract zero attention. The fact that I was wearing my brother’s old clothing– mens cargo shorts, a blue mens henley, and black chucks? That was a strategic move made by a twenty-something female looking to attract as little street harassment attention as possible.

Really, I was just trying to get to Bed Bath and Beyond in peace.

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IMAGES: The Million Hoodie March

Compiled by Arturo R. García

Mother Jones’ assertion that Wednesday’s Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin and the Occupy Wall Street movement are “linked” will need to be reassessed in the days ahead. Though Occupation members like @OccupyTheHood were credited by some with helping the two groups find solidarity leading into the event, by Wednesday evening, allegations were made online accusing members of OWS of moving to co-opt it. (A compilation of some of the tweets in the debate can be found here.)

But one more thing should be reevaluated from that video, too: the notion that “hundreds” took part. People on the ground, as well as some online outlets, reported that thousands lined the streets, among them Martin’s parents.
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Announcement/Open Thread: The Million Hoodie March

In the spirit of solidarity, we want to join other sites in inviting our readers in the New York area to join in what’s being billed as the Million Hoodie March in honor of Trayvon Martin, scheduled to begin at Union Square at 6 p.m. EST.

A petition on Change.org calling for the prosecution of the man who killed Trayvon, George Zimmerman, is nearing the 1-million signature mark. As noted on the event’s Facebook page, today is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

If you do attend, or are donning a hoodie for the event, please use this space to talk about your experiences today.

The Politics Of Hailing A Cab

By Guest Contributor Loryn Wilson, cross-posted from LorynWilson.com

On New Year’s Eve, I stumbled out of Marvin and went out to 14th Street to find a cab. Next to me was a white guy, apparently trying to do the same thing. A cab pulls up, and I jump in as fast as I could, because I know how this normally goes. Most of the time, this story ends with the white guy getting picked up and I’m left to wait for a cab driver to stop for a black girl.

I must’ve not shut the door quick enough, because the white guy who was standing on the same corner as me squeezes his ass in! The cabdriver asks where he’s going and it’s in the complete opposite direction as my destination. The cabdriver says he can only take one of us to our destination. I get indignant. “Sir, I was here first. You’re not kicking me out of the cab. At all.”

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