New Yorkers blew whistles Thursday in protest against the police department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy aimed at getting guns off the streets.
At small protests in Harlem, Manhattan and other corners of the city dozens of people blew on whistles handed out by organizers to show their opposition to what they said amounts to police abuse.
Melanie Craney, with Stop Mass Incarceration, which organized the protests, said she hoped people would keep their whistles and blow on them every time they witness officers carrying out a search in their neighborhoods.
"The idea is that people carry the whistles with them and use it when they see a stop and frisk," she said at a rally attended by about 50 people in Union Square. "We're going to whistle to create awareness in the community."
Stop and frisk is defended by city police and Mayor Michael Bloomberg as one of the main tools for rooting out illegal guns in high-crime areas, where shootings are an almost daily occurrence. Police patrolling in the heavily black or Latino neighborhoods stop and search people in the street on the slightest suspicion of illegal activity.
Last year, officers stopped 685,724 people, 84 percent of them black or Hispanic.
But only two percent of all stops found illegal contraband and only in one percent of cases were weapons found, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has studied police data.
Young New Yorkers at the rally expressed hostility toward the police, while admitting that they are also fearful of the gun crime that officials say the aggressive policing is doing much to curb.
"The youth especially, they hate the cops. Nobody likes them," said Abdul Kircher, 15, who lives in Queens borough.
He and his friend Keshawn James, 16, swapped tales of altercations with police. "Some days they mess with you on purpose. They want to get you mad so they can arrest you," Kircher said.
James, from the Bronx, confirmed that guns are common in the poor neighborhoods that police most frequently patrol and that fear of violence is always at the back of his mind.
"At a big, large party, most likely someone has a gun. Whether they're going to use it, that's like a five percent chance," James said.
Kircher said young people are afraid at night of being "jumped," which means a mugging by multiple assailants.
However, Kircher said the police did not make him feel safer.
"By the time you get beat up, it's too late for the cops."