NEW YORK — A silent march by thousands of people in New York City protesting police “stop-and-frisk” tactics on Sunday was punctuated by an explosion of loud voices.
“We’ve got to fight back, we can’t be silent!” a group of activists shouted as they passed the home of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just off Fifth Avenue.
But the rest of the quiet, slow procession from Harlem down the avenue was interrupted only by the tapping of feet on the pavement and birds chirping in trees along Central Park.
Nearly 300 civil rights groups were represented in the 30-block walk, from elected officials and labor union members to New York residents angry about how they’re being treated when they walk the streets.
Critics say the NYPD’s practice of stopping, questioning and searching people who police consider suspicious is illegal and humiliating to hundreds of thousands of law-abiding blacks and Hispanics. Last year, the NYPD stopped close to 700,000 people, up from more than 90,000 a decade ago.
Bloomberg’s town house on East 79th Street was the proclaimed destination of the Sunday march. The home and sidewalk in front were blocked off by police barricades, and officers would not say whether the mayor was home.
As the march wound down, with a lineup of buses waiting to take protesters away, tensions between police and protesters suddenly escalated into clashes.
A group of them, led by longtime Occupy Wall Street activists, insisted on walking down Fifth below East 77th Street – apparently the cutoff point where police tried to direct them to side streets.
Police officers on scooters lined both sides of the avenue and officers on foot formed a line to keep people on the sidewalk. Several scuffles broke out between screaming protesters and officers who pushed them behind barricades.
One woman was seen wrestling with an officer who had leaped across a barricade, chasing her before she was arrested. Police said nine people were arrested on various charges including assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
“The silence ended and the people’s voices came out,” said Matthew Swaye, 34, a former Bronx school teacher and self-described longtime Occupy protester.
“We were told to go home and we weren’t ready to go yet,” said Swaye, who added that his wife, Christina Gonzalez, 25, was one of the protesters arrested in the melee.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, the NAACP and Local 1199 of the SEIU union were the leading organizers of Sunday’s march.
Resting on a bench while others walked, Samantha Tailor, a mother of two from the Bronx, said her 16-year-old son came home from school “very upset” last month after he and two friends were stopped on their way to classes that morning. That was the second time for her son in recent months, she said.
“Thank God, he had his ID,” Tailor said. “He wasn’t doing anything wrong, just walking to school.”