On October 25, members of the the Albany community gathered to learn more about the targeting of African-American males in federal and state drug sweeps in Albany, NY and discuss and strategize about how to end mass incarceration. Alice Green, director of The Center For Law and Justice, presented the findings of her organization’s report, What Have We Done?: Mass Incarceration and the Targeting of Albany’s Black Males by Federal, State, and Local Authorities. Michael Figura, a legal fellow at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, drew connections between law enforcement tactics targeting of African-American and Latino communities in the drug war and the targeting of Muslims and political activists. Lynne Jackson, of Project Salam, highlighted some of the many uses of entrapment and preemptive prosecution against Muslims in the “war on terror.”
The remainder, and majority, of the event focused on a discussion among the attendees, moderated by Mark Bobb-Semple, about how to build a movement to stop the New Jim Crow and law enforcement targeting of other communities. Family members of those convicted in the Albany sweeps reflected on the damage done by mass incarceration and proposed a return to 60′s style protests. Other attendees noted that the success of the civil rights movement was due in large part to the diversity of tactics and philosophies exemplified by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. One audience member noted that the discussion helped him to understand how the government unjustly prosecuted Muslims, and that he was able to see parallels with the incarceration of African-Americans. A number of those present pointed out that policing practices had a large impact on who ultimately becomes incarcerated. The discussion provided the building blocks of a movement that fights for the end of mass incarceration and biased policing and law enforcement.
Residents of Albany, and cities and towns across the country have influence and control over local law enforcement practices through their local and state legislatures. By building a strong coalition, an engaged people can pass restrictions to ensure that their communities are treated fairly, constitutionally and justly. As local efforts in Berkeley, California and New York City have shown, a strong coalition can assert control over law enforcement practices and assure fair and equal treatment.