Brown University: Righteous Protest Shuts Down NYPD Head Raymond Kelly, Unapologetic Proponent of Stop-and-Frisk

November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


“Ray Kelly, you can’t hide, we charge you with homicide.” This was one of the chants on October 30 as about 100 Brown University students, along with people from the neighboring community in Providence, Rhode Island, prevented New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly from giving a speech on “Proactive Policing in America’s Biggest City.”

Video: Emily Kassie and Brown Political Review

By “proactive policing,” Kelly means especially stop-and-frisk, the openly racist NYPD policy that results in hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Black and Latino youth, being harassed and often brutalized by the police every year. During the trial on the lawsuit against the stop-and-frisk policy earlier this year, a former NYPD captain testified that Kelly said, during a meeting with the New Jersey governor, that stop-and-frisk was focused on young Black and Latino men because he “wanted to instill fear in them, every time they leave their home they could be stopped by the police.”

The Brown protest is a very positive development! It happened immediately after a federal appeals court stopped the changes in the stop-and-frisk policy mandated by a lower court, pending the appeal of that ruling by the City of New York, and even threw the trial judge off the case. The students who protested and disrupted Kelly’s speech on the Brown campus have set a standard in refusing to accept stop-and-frisk or the outrageous federal court ruling protecting it.

One of the student protesters said, “We drafted a petition last Thursday, and as of today there are over 500 signatures. We delivered it... and they didn’t respond to our demand to cancel the lecture. So today, we canceled it for them.” Another protester said, “The concept of freedom of speech, of allowing Ray Kelly his constitutional right to express his speech, in this particular situation, is illegitimate. How can I say such a thing? Well, an abolitionist is not interested in the freedom of speech of a slave master. He’s simply trying to abolish the system...”

Before Kelly’s speech students marched and chanted outside the room. Among the signs they carried were “My Skin is Not a Crime,” “Don’t Honor the Police State,” “Stop and Frisk” with a big “X” crossing the words out, and “Stop Police Brutality.”

Inside, Kelly was booed by many in the audience (and applauded by some) as he was introduced. (See a video of the scene above.) Soon after Kelly began speaking, students began standing up to denounce stop-and-frisk and Kelly’s role in implementing and defending it. A young Black man who initiated this soon was joined by a group of about 20 who spoke in unison for a moment, preventing Kelly from giving his lecture. Kelly thought he could continue when they sat down, but whenever he tried other students stood and shouted demands that he stop.

A Brown administrator who intervened on the basis of people’s supposed “right” to hear Kelly asked how many people wanted to program to proceed. A few people applauded and raised their hands. Then a young woman yelled, “How many people do NOT want to hear Ray Kelly” Many more people raised their hands and cheered. The administrator conceded defeat: “This program is now concluded, and we’re going to ask everyone to leave the audience”.

Brown is an “Ivy League” institution, one of the country’s elite universities, a place where future generations of “the nation’s leaders” are trained. It is very significant that such protest is breaking out there. One young woman who spoke at a rally after the disruption said she had been told by someone on the podium that nothing like this had taken place at Brown for at least 15 years.

The Brown protest has struck a nerve. One letter to the New York Times referred to it as a “contemptible reanimation of 1960s mobocracy.” Another letter, by a former executive of the NY Civil Liberties Union, said the protest was “wrong and unethical.” These are completely wrong arguments. Allowing Ray Kelly—a top architect and perpetrator of stop-and-frisk—to speak would be wrong and unethical and would make Brown University complicit in the crimes against the people he perpetrates, as many students pointed out. The protests at Brown, and the spirit of resistance, must be defended, upheld and spread to other campuses and cities!

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