FIST leader confronts police, metal detectors

Published Oct 1, 2006 4:27 PM

Sept. 26--After two days of protests, metal detectors had been removed. The following is an account by the organizer of the protests.

On the morning of Sept. 22, dozens of police officers armed with guns and scanners monitored the doorway of Humanities Preparatory School, making students of Humanities and two smaller schools inside of the building walk through metal detectors. This was in response to a rumored stabbing at the Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities.

This police occupation not only violated the students’ personal space, but also turned students into petty criminals. Students were suspended for personal possessions the law might call “illegal”, but things that were no threat at all. Police officers took away cell phones, iPods, and even artistic markers—claiming they were for graffitti. Threats of confiscation escalated to arrests.

I happen to go to one of the smaller schools in the building, James Baldwin School. As I arrived that day, it looked like a police state. Since the original fight had nothing to do with either of the smaller schools, I staged a picket across the street to give a statement to the Board of Education that we do not approve of these scanners.

What was planned as an hour-long picket turned into an hour-and-a-half of explaining to officers, teachers and students why we need our cell phones—on a Friday—and why we need our privacy. The police were stopping students as far away as the subway station, searching them for inappropriate reasons and saying inappropriate things. Altogether, about 40 students joined us and 23 of them signed in and spent time on the picket with me. Students and an administrator who wanted to join us were intimidated and some went home. Some others went into the school, but promised to spread the word and tell others to join us on Monday’s picket!

After about an hour-and-a-half, officers and the principal of Humanities told us that truancy officers would be picking us up, so more students went into the school and more left. They tried to take us into the school before the truancy officers came, but I refused to go through the scanners. They finally called my mother and told her to pick me up so I would not be marked truant. They then took me inside the school without being scanned, and the principal whispered in my ear, “I’m proud of you.”

I was held in the Dean’s office of Humanities, until my mother picked me up. While waiting, I heard stories of experiences that these students will never forget. A classmate of mine was bodily searched and arrested. Objects were confiscated which didn’t even fall into any illegal category. The police seemed to be scared by what they didn’t recognize.

Cruz is a member of FIST—Fight Imperialism, Stand Together