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NYCLU Calls on NYPD to Investigate Mass Arrest of Brooklyn Youth

The New York Civil Liberties Union today called on the New York Police Department to conduct a thorough investigation into the recent arrest of nearly three dozen students walking to the funeral of a friend. The mass arrests reflect an overly aggressive approach to perceived gang association and raises concerns about racial profiling, the civil liberties union said.

On May 21, approximately 30 young people between the ages of 13 and 22 gathered in a Bushwick park in preparation for attending the wake of Donnell McFarland. As the youths proceeded to the funeral service, police officers stopped and subsequently arrested the entire group. Most of the youth were held overnight — some for more than 36 hours — and charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly.

“The NYCLU shares the Department’s concern for safe streets, but to collectively punish a group of teenagers — some as young as 12 — without reasonable suspicion of individual wrongdoing is unacceptable,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “Even if some of the individuals walking to the wake engaged in unlawful behavior, the arrest of the entire group indicates that police officers arrested individuals in an arbitrary manner, failing to distinguish between lawful and unlawful conduct.”

The NYCLU’s letter to Commissioner Kelly urges the Department to initiate an investigation into the apparent failure by police officers to distinguish between lawful and unlawful behavior in the mass arrests that occurred in Brooklyn. The letter also requests that the Department reform anti-gang police practices that may have led to the mass arrests.

“Such indiscriminate behavior by police officers violates basic constitutional protections against arrests without individualized suspicion of criminal behavior,” said Udi Ofer, NYCLU Legislative Counsel. “Moreover, the targeting of a large group of Black and Latino youths raises serious concerns about racial profiling.”

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