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20 guilty in protest of NYC stop-and-frisk policy

Associated Press Modified: May 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm •  Published: May 4, 2012
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The protesters followed a police instruction to move back to leave a path on the sidewalk, and no one was kept from entering or leaving a stationhouse that had two doors, they and their lawyers said. The police orders were confusing and sometimes inaudible, they added.

The demonstrators took the trial as an opportunity to sound their message from the witness stand. All but one testified, sometimes recounting his or her stop-and-frisk experiences.

The New York Police Department conducted more than 684,000 of the street stops last year. Police say those stopped were behaving suspiciously — by moving furtively or carrying a pry bar, for instance — but they weren't necessarily suspects sought in any particular crime.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said police can stop and question people based on "reasonable suspicion," and the NYPD says the stops are a valuable crime-fighting tool. While relatively few — 12 percent last year — result in arrests or summonses, the stops also turned up more than 8,200 weapons, including 819 guns, police said.

To opponents, stop-and-frisks treat innocent people with suspicion and reflect racial profiling. About 87 percent of those stopped were minorities, compared to 53 percent of New York City's population.

The demonstrators were disappointed by the judge's verdict but not surprised, Mills said.

"You can't fight the system and be surprised when things don't go your way in a government proceeding," he said. But, he added, "It became an extraordinary and uplifting experience for us, that we were involved in it and involved with each other."

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