New York City's "stop-and-frisk" law is a policy that "all but requires" young black and Latino men to be treated with suspicion, says William Thompson Jr., the sole African-American in the city's mayoral race.
Thompson rarely brings up race, reports The New York Times
, but he spoke to a storefront church's congregation Sunday to denounce the city police department policies, suggesting they promote the same kind of profiling that led George Zimmerman to follow Trayvon Martin and kill him.
"Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. Zimmerman’s suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers to treat young black and Latino men with suspicion, to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin," Thompson told worshippers at the Abundant Life Church in Brooklyn.
Thompson's remarks came as polls show him pulling ahead of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has up until recent revelations about his online sexual communications with women enjoyed support among black voters
Thompson acknowledged Sunday he normally doesn't enter discussions of race, but then spoke passionately to the church about stop-and-frisk, a policy that New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly insists saves lives but the city's minority communities say targets them.
The stop-and-frisk policy allows police who suspect a person has committed a crime to stop and question that person, and, under some circumstances, frisk for weapons.
Thompson said 600,000 blacks and Latinos were stopped by police in 2011 alone, but a vast majority were innocent and were "profiled as Trayvon was profiled," the Times reported.
The Democratic candidate has expressed mixed views on the stop-and-frisk issue. He has described some parts as effective and has stopped short of calling for an outright repeal of it, a position that has helped him win the support of police unions.
However, he also says he would like to replace Kelly if elected and overhaul stop-and-frisk to make sure it is not being used to profile suspects. He has called for the hiring of 2,000 more police officers.
According to the Times, Thompson acknowledged Sunday his background as the son of a New York Supreme Court judge and a schoolteacher, is not the same as that of many minority men in the city. But he said the Zimmerman case compelled him to speak out. Church members said they were surprised by his words — and several said his speech will make them reconsider him as a candidate.
Thompson said he was also moved to speak after watching President Barack Obama discuss the Zimmerman acquittal verdict in a personal and emotional way.
The mayoral candidate also addressed criticism leveled at him after he spoke about the verdict, declaring that Martin was killed because of his skin color. He repeated that statement on Sunday, the Times reported.
"Trayvon Martin did die because he was black. Of that, there is no doubt," Thompson said. "The verdict in Florida was a verdict — but it was not the verdict.”
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