|PJ Statement for May 6 Unveiling of New Know Your Rights Mural|
Press Conference Statement, May 6, 2012
Peoples’ Justices for Community Control and Police Accountability (Peoples’ Justice): is coalition of New York City grassroots organizations that seeks to contribute to the movement to end discriminatory, unlawful and abusive policing through activities aimed at educating and empowering affected communities. Commissioning Know Your Rights mural like the one recently completed near Ravenswood Houses is one example of this work.
Why Know Your Rights?
All New Yorkers, whether they are citizens or not, have certain rights when interacting with law enforcement: the right to not consent to a search during a street stop, to not be profiled based on how one looks or where one lives, and to not be subjected to harassment or excessive force are some of these rights. Unfortunately, as the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk data – and the experiences of members of Peoples’ Justice organizations – show, too often the police violate these rights in a manner that is embarrassing, frightening and dangerous for those targeted. Peoples’ Justice feels strongly that teaching affected New Yorkers their rights, as well as how to exercise those rights safely, is one of the first steps we must take to empower the communities in which we work to respond to and deter discriminatory, unlawful and abusive policing.
Why Public Art?
Thanks to the financial support of the Center for Constitutional Rights, since 2009, Peoples’ Justice has been working with NYC-based community artists to paint murals that illustrate Know Your Rights facts in neighborhoods that are heavily impacted by stop-and-frisk and other forms of discriminatory, unlawful and abusive policing. There are currently Peoples’ Justice murals in Washington Heights, the South Bronx and Northwest Bronx, Central Brooklyn and now in Long Island City, Queens.
Peoples’ Justice’s public art has two purposes: First, it is mean to compliment the Know Your Rights workshops and outreach we do on a regular basis. Visual art communicates differently than the written or spoken word. By creating Know Your Rights murals, we seek to bring important information directly to the streets where it is needed the most, in a way that is visually striking and memorable.
Secondly, public art is also about shifting culture and creating hope. Everyday low-income New Yorkers of color confront the prospect of being wrongfully stopped, frisked, arrested, harassed, injured and even killed by the police. For those who have lived through traumatic police encounters, seeing the police every day means the possibility of re-living that trauma is ever present. Our hope is that our Know Your Rights murals will be a beautiful and informative presence in the face of this reality and act as a permanent statement that we are demanding change.
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