Wednesday, September 7, 2011

City Councilman Jumaane Williams incident is case of continued black-and-white police intolerance

Juan Gonzalez

Wednesday, September 7th 2011, 4:00 AM

Council Member Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, Director of Community Relations for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio discuss their arrest after the West Indian Day Parade Tuesday.
Bryan Smith for News
Council Member Jumaane Williams and Kirsten John Foy, Director of Community Relations for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio discuss their arrest after the West Indian Day Parade Tuesday.

It is the kind of humiliating incident with police every African American or Latino man in this city fears.

The kind Jumaane Williams, 35, thought he had left behind.

The son of a doctor from Grenada, Williams, 35, was elected to the City Council from Central Brooklyn in 2009. He is well-educated, articulate and a rising star among black politicians.

Late Monday, at the end of the West Indian Day Parade, Williams became another young, black man roughed up and handcuffed by cops for the flimsiest of reasons.

What happened to him and his boyhood friend Kirsten John Foy, 35, a top aide to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, has become so appallingly routine in this town it rarely makes news anymore.

The two were walking through a police "frozen zone" to get to a postparade event at the Brooklyn Museum.

They say police supervisors at two previous checkpoints gave them the go-ahead to enter the zone, but cops at a third checkpoint refused to let them proceed.

"We showed them our IDs but they didn't want to hear of it, or even look at them," Foy said.

Williams happens to be a tall man who wears his hair in dreadlocks. A community organizer and former student of mine at Brooklyn College, he is well-versed in conflict resolution.

One of the lecturers I would invite to my class was a young police lieutenant named Eric Adams. Adams, now state senator, always explained how to act in a street encounter with police.

On Monday, Williams pulled out his cell phone and called a police chief he knew who could confirm his identity for the police officers at the parade.

He was on the phone with the chief when a group of cops surrounded him and started to push him out of the zone.

The next thing he knew, he was in cuffs.

His buddy Foy is hardly a novice at dealing with the police. Before he worked for de Blasio, Foy was one of Al Sharpton's closest aides, and on the Sean Bell case. An amateur video shows Foy backing up as a cop moves toward him. The cop grabs Foy in a headlock, trips him to the ground and handcuffs him.

De Blasio rushed back to the scene after his aide was arrested. De Blasio, who is white, told me he had no problem crossing numerous checkpoints by merely showing his ID.

This is not the only incident involving police overreaction to black leaders at the parade.

Last year, Daniel Goodine, 54, an aide to City Councilwoman Letitia James, was arrested at the same spot. Goodine was trying to escort Latrice Walker, a lawyer who was feeling sick, from the parade route to a rest room at the museum. They were stopped by a policeman at a barricade.

Goodine tried to insist the woman needed help. He ended up arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Walker represented him at his trial, where he was acquitted.

The most obvious sign that our city has a widespread problem is the number of stop-and-frisk incidents recorded by police. Each year, they keep skyrocketing. For the first six months of 2011, there were 362,150 stops. That's about 2,000 every day; 84% of them involved blacks and Hispanics.

It took the arrest of a City Councilman to remind us that black and Latino men deserve more respect from police on our streets.

jgonzalez@nydailynews.com

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