All Articles Tagged "NYPD"

Did The NYPD’s “Broken Windows Policy” Of Policing Contribute To The Death Of Eric Garner?

July 22nd, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Eric Garner's death

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The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signalling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. – courtesy of Wikipedia

Death at the hands of police officers is not an uncommon occurrence these days.

Capturing it on video is not really unheard of either. You can go to YouTube and literally pull up hundreds of hours of dashboard cams and cellphone footage of police brutality and misconduct. However, only eight percent of citizen complaints about police brutality and harassment are followed by disciplinary action. When watching the tragic video of 42-year-old Eric Garner, who died recently after being put into a chokehold by a police officer in Staten Island (chokeholds are prohibited in the NYPD police guide by the way), I wondered if his family would become part of the elite eight percent to receive justice, or would they join the vast majority of victims whose calls for justice go unanswered?

While I’d like to be optimistic, sadly, the realist in me believes that the outcome will be the latter.

You can watch the first half the video here. There is also new footage of the aftermath, which you can view here. Be warned that it is pretty graphic footage, as you will literally be watching a man take his last breath. But as hard of a watch as it is, I feel like it’s necessary to see in order to put a real face to the never-ending problem of police officers using excessive force, as well as to help identify ways in which we can keep these incidents from happening in the future.

Prior to being choked by the police, Garner plead his case to plainclothes cops who had swarmed around him. He tells them that he wasn’t doing anything and that he was actually breaking up a fight when the officers approached him. However, one of the cops in the video asserted that they had witnessed him illegally selling cigarettes.

According to New York Tax laws, which regulate the sale of cigarettes, selling loosies on the street is regarded as a misdemeanor, which comes with a ticket for a fine (although multiple arrests and convictions of the same violation could lead to actual incarceration, but that is usually at the discretion of the sentencing judge – not arresting officers on the street). So why didn’t one of the cops just write him a ticket and let him move on with his day? Why did he need to be thrown to the ground by the neck, subdued and handcuffed? And more importantly, why had Garner’s alleged misdemeanor of illegal cigarette selling need to be met with that degree of police intervention? I mean, calling backup for a misdemeanor offense just seems excessive. And yet, for the NYPD, this approach to crime fighting has long been the popular policy.

Just a couple of months prior to the death of Garner, The NYPD announced that it would be targeting subway performers, particularly the young pole dancers, who are mostly young black and Latino men. These individuals are known for doing acrobatics and Hip-Hop dance routines in the aisle of moving subway cars. The new emphasis on stopping the performers is all part of the department’s return to the “broken window” style of policing.

According to a recent CBS news article, quite a few performers have already been arrested:

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is going after graffitists, motorcyclists, and now subway acrobats as part of his “broken windows” policy of policing. Over 240 performers have been arrested this year so far, compared to less than 40 people at the same time last year.

Is it a significant crime? Certainly not,” Commissioner Bratton said of cracking down on the seemingly harmless, but mayhem-inducing offense. The question is “Does it have the potential both for creating a level of fear as well as a level of risk that you want to deal with?

Police have started studying passenger complaints to figure out when and where to place plainclothes officers on the subway, in order to stop the potentially dangerous acrobatics.

The key word here is “potentially.” In other words, the city’s police department is wasting valuable resources and man hours to target what amounts to “potential” property crimes, public nuisances and other minor offenses, by going after the neighborhood squeegee man who “services” your car at intersections, the kids who bust a move for cash and ask to pump gas for you at gas stations, and the lowly schmuck selling single cigarettes out of a $12 pack of Newports.

Commissioner Bratton seems to think that data is on his side (although as noted in this Salon piece, even the NYPD has admitted that recent numbers on the effectiveness of the broken window policy of policing are unavailable and inconclusive) as well as history, as it was this same focus on broken window policing the commissioner used to allegedly reduce crime during the Rudy Giuliani years (ironically, New Yorkers are supposedly in the more “progressive” de Blasio years but with Giuliani-style policing). But the problem is that correlation is not causation. And at least one study of the implementation of Bratton’s broken window policing has shown that much of the statistical data around the reduction of real crime coincides not only with a national decline in violent crimes, but a time when unemployment had dropped and the economy had strengthened in the city.

In my opinion, a person who might sell “loosies” or does poorly choreographed dance stunts on a subway car probably won’t be the same guy who rapes, murders and pillages for the sake of causing mayhem. Sometimes they are just young poor kids. Maybe they’re homeless. Or in the case of Garner, perhaps they’re an older man with kids to support (if we are to go by the police’s official account of the events, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt). But more times than not, they remain pretty non-violent folks who are mostly trying to make a dollar out of a dime and a nickel while real criminals are moving about, running amok.

In fact, it appears the real criminalization happened when the police, aided by the criminal justice system and politicians who pass and co-sign these laws, decided that it would target low level “criminal activity” as a crime of interest, which means that black and brown people are profiled more. Now with arrest records, convictions, fines and maybe even incarceration, we have created barriers for individuals in the future to seek and access employment and even welfare, as well as financial aid for school and housing. 

Meanwhile, New York’s Financial District is about a 42-minute car ride away from where Garner died. I’m certain that there are plenty more significant non-violent offenses taking place there. But we rarely – if ever – see a video of cops swarming a white guy in a suit or wrestling him to the ground in a chokehold because they witnessed him discussing some insider trading. Nobody is worried about windows over there…

 

Citizens Can Now Sue NYPD Over Stop-And-Frisks

June 23rd, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

The New York City Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy has been controversial since it began with many civil rights organizations say the policy unfairly targets minority men, especially young African-American males. And now victims of unjust “stop-and-frisks” can sue the police.

The NYPD had tried to stop this from happening, but in a recent decision State Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh upheld the Community Safety Act passed by the City Council last year making it easier for citizens to sue the NYPD for racial profiling.  And the Manhattan judge also rejected a request from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association to issue an injunction against the measure, reports The New York Daily News.

Minorities were stopped disproportionately and 90 percent of the stops did not end in an arrest.

“Local Law 71 does not prevent police officers from continuing to stop, question and frisk while utilizing their training and experience,” Singh wrote in a 35-page decision.

“The law only seeks to deter the use of attributes such as race as the sole basis for an investigatory stop which is antithetical to our constitution and values,” the judge continued.

According to New York Civil Liberties Union president Donna Lieberman, this decision will not only help citizens but also the police as well.

“It is a victory for all New Yorkers, including the police, because it is building trust and respect between officers and the communities they serve,” she noted.

“This law provides an important opportunity for New Yorkers who are subject to racial profiling or other discriminatory behavior the opportunity to vindicate their rights,” she added.

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the City Council measure, unlike former mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had sided with the unions in trying to fight it.

But PBA president Pat Lynch said his organization would appeal the ruling.

“This law sends an extremely bad message to our police officers who will see themselves in legal crosshairs with every arrest they make. Potentially, this bad law can have a very serious impact on public safety,” Lynch said.

But Singh disagrees. “The City Council passed Local Law 71 to address a local concern relating to civil rights and police activities. The law does not prohibit or restrict the right of a police officer to make a stop … Rather it addresses the consequences of biased-based profiling by law enforcement personnel,” Singh wrote.

NYC Medical Examiner Unable To Determine Cause Of Avonte Oquendo’s Death

February 27th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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human remains believed to belong to Avonte Oquendo

Source: NYDN

Last month, we reported on missing autistic New York City teen Avonte Oquendo, whose body parts were found scattered in College Point, Queens. At the time, New York City police believed Oquendo initially drowned in the East River. And now, after an exhausting amount of attempts, the city’s Medical Examiner says he cannot determine how Oquendo died, according to The Daily News.

Avonte Oquendo, whose form of autism made him incapable of verbal communication, was last seen on October 4, 2013. Surveillance footage documented him running away from his school, Center Boulevard. For months search teams looked all around for Oquendo but eventually called efforts off. Vanessa Fontaine, Oquendo’s mother, has since filed an emergency lawsuit against the NYPD, seeking access to the investigation files surrounding her son’s disappearance. Unfortunately, she has been denied twice with the Manhattan Supreme Court deeming her request an “invasion of privacy.”

Check out a news report on Avonte Oquendo’s death in the video below.

Civil Rights Leaders, Retail Execs Create A Bill Of Rights To Protect Black Shoppers From Racial Profiling

December 11th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Who would have thought it would ever come to this — that we need a bill of rights to protect black shoppers from racial profiling at retail stores?

Because shopping while black has become hazardous, civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and retail executives have developed list of rules that will be posted inside stores to ensure that black shoppers will not be racially profiled and targeted simply for buying expensive items, reports The New York Daily News.

According to the bill of rights, store employees who racially profile customers can be disciplined and possibly fired. Also, vulgar language or excessive force while detaining suspects is prohibited. Employees must “respect the basic civil and legal rights of any person suspected of a crime,” the list says.

Regulations must be applied nationwide and stores will be subject to internal tests to make sure they are in compliance. The list must be posted in common areas in the stores, available upon request and placed on store websites. Some stores have even promised to run ads publicizing the bill of rights to customers.

The bill comes after a string of racial-profiling allegations and lawsuits from black shoppers. To prevent this from happening again, a coalition of high-end retailers such as Barneys, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor and other department stores and civil rights leaders came up with a “bill of rights” to protect customers from “shop-and-frisk” practices.

Sharpton called the “best practices” agreement, which is the first of its kind between community leaders and the retail industry, as a step in the right direction. “The message I think is very simple,” said Ed Goldberg, Macy’s vice president. “We understand the gravity of the situation. . . . We subscribe to the document that’s going to be released by the retail council.”

The coalition, however, has been unable to convince the NYPD to participate. “We cannot have an agreement with the NYPD without the incoming commissioner saying, ‘We agree to that,’ ” said Sharpton, who has requested a sitdown with newly appointed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. While Bratton’s office has yet to issue a statement, a spokeswoman for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio told the newspaper that the commissioner-designate would be happy to meet with the group.

“Mayor-elect de Blasio has said repeatedly that his administration will have zero tolerance for racial profiling of any kind,” said spokeswoman Lis Smith, adding that de Blasio “deeply appreciates” the retailers’ willingness to adopt the new policies.

Bratton was first police commissioner at a time when crime was rampant in New York City. However, he’s now working for a mayor who was elected on the premise that he would crack down on practices like stop-and-frisk that disproportionately impact the minority population of the city. He was credited for getting the city on a path to less crime, though some of his tactics were controversial. He went on to become a law enforcement leader in Boston and Los Angeles. It’s his record in LA, where traffic stops increased under his leadership, that has already got critics weighing in.

We’ll have to wait and see how Commissioner Bratton will handle this and a number of other issues he’ll be faced with.

NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Practices Plummet, New York City Crime Rate Still On The Right Track

November 20th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a supporter of stop-and-frisk. Lev Radin/Shutterstock

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a supporter of stop-and-frisk. Lev Radin/Shutterstock

Compared to last year, use of stop-and-frisk, which involves police officers searching passersby based on often flimsy evidence (a vague description, for instance) that they’ve done anything wrong, has dropped by 80 percent. But the debate still remains heated: Does the program contribute to lower crime numbers? New evidence suggests not, TheGrio reports.

Outgoing New York City Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD’s Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have always justified stop-and-frisk, which overwhelmingly targets Black and Hispanic residents, by assuring the public that crime has plummeted due to the program. But their persuasion is wearing thin as data finds that stop-and-frisk practices have dropped, yet the city’s crime hasn’t surged as Bloomberg and Kelly warned.

In July, August, and September of last year, there were 106,000 stops by the NYPD. The same time this year, there were 21,000 stops — an 80 percent decrease. According to data provided to the City Council, police confiscated 99 firearms, down from 198 last year, and 463 knives, down from 1,016.

The steep drop in stop-and-frisk is “good news,” says Donna Lieberman, head of the New York Civil Liberties Union. This is a testament that New York City can still be on the right track towards a safe city without tactics that racially profile minorities.

In fact, a recent study discovers that stop-and-frisk tactics are more ineffective than they are effective — only 1.5 percent of residents who were stopped-and-frisked were actually convicted for a crime and sentenced to more than 30 days in jail. “The study concludes that Stop & Frisk has little impact on the rate of violent crime,” PressTV says.

“Even as (Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s) administration doggedly defends its stop-and-frisk program in court and in the public, these numbers are tacit recognition that it’s misguided and not necessary for the public safety,” Lieberman adds.

The decline could be the result of Judge Shira A. Scheindlin‘s decree for the NYPD to make sweeping changes to the police force regarding stop-and-frisk practices after four minority men sued for being unfairly targeted. But as MN has reported, her ruling has been suspended as this point as a federal appeals accused her of being too impartial during the case.

Another reason behind the drops in stop-and-frisk are a new training course put in place by Commissioner Kelly to properly mold officers on how to approach a suspect without breaking any laws. NYPD authorities who work in high-crime areas are receiving the training.

There are also now consequences for officers who abuse stop-and-frisk. “The police department established an early warning system to identify officers who have received public complaints on the policy, and precinct commanders will be held accountable at weekly meetings,” TheGrio concludes.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio made a campaign pledge to end stop-and-frisk entirely.

About The End of Stop-And-Frisk… Controversial NY Police Policy Is Back In Effect

November 1st, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Stop-and-frisk, a police tactic that uses an overwhelming amount of racial profiling, had been deemed unconstitutional. But wait. Shira A. Scheindlin, the judge who made the ruling, has been thrown out of the case by a federal appeals court, which has halted the NYPD’s abandonment of stop-and-frisk practices, the New York Times reports.

The Court of Appeals decided that Scheindlin was being biased in her August ruling that the NYPD had violated minorities’ Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. When the lawsuit against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics was filed six years ago, the panel alleges that Scheindlin steered the case into her courtroom. According to the three-judge panel, “Shira A. Scheindlin, ‘ran afoul’ of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the ‘appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation,’” the NY Times said.

Ray Kelly, the head honcho of the NYPD and the biggest cheerleader for stop-and-frisk, was recently booed at Brown University with students chanting “Racism is not for debate!” “No question about it, violent crime will go up,” Kelly said shortly after Scheindlin’s ruling. He noted that the very population that’s most opposed to stop-and-frisk will be in the most trouble. “The losers in this, if this case is allowed to stand, are people who live in minority communities,” he said. Stats show 87 percent of the people stopped under stop-and-frisk in 2012 were black or Latino[...] just 7 percent were white. Plans to monitor the  NYPD, which was supposed to push the department’s end to racial profiling as a crime-fighting strategy, has now been postponed.

“[Kelly] noted that 97% of shooting victims are black or Hispanic; [he] reasoned that similar demographics apply if a stop deters a killing and added that there have been more than 7,300 fewer killings in the 11 full years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure so far than in the 11 years before,” USA Today noted.

Bloomberg, who whole-heartedly supports Kelly’s stop-and-frisk practices, added, “The fact that fewer guns are on the street now shows that our efforts have been successful. There is just no question that stop-question-frisk has saved countless lives.”

John Koeltl is the new judge presiding over the case.  The case will extend into 2014, after Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor is over. Bill DiBlasio, the Democratic mayoral nominee who’s far ahead in the polls over his Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota (a supporter of stop-and-frisk) noted that he was “extremely disappointed” by the court’s decision. “We have to end the overuse of stop-and-frisk, and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect.” DiBlasio said in a statement.

“Treme” Star Rob Brown Says He Was Arrested After Buying Movado Watch At Macy’s For His Mom

October 28th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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 PNP/WENN.com

PNP/WENN.com

 

The racial profiling struggle is becoming far too real here in New York City. We told you about 19-year-old Trayon Christian, who was arrested outside of Barneys on Madison Avenue after he purchased a pricey Salvatore Ferragamo belt on his debit card. Then there were claims by Kayla Phillips, 21, that she was approached by undercover officers after buying a $2, 500 Celine bag in the same store earlier in the year. But they’re not the only ones stepping forward to tell their stories, and it’s not just Barneys that allows these things to happen (which black folks already knew).

Actor Rob Brown, known for his work on the HBO show Treme and from movies like Finding ForresterCoach Carter, and the recent release, Don Jon, says that he was arrested this summer by officers in Macys in Herald Square after purchasing a $1, 350 Movado watch as a graduation present for his mother. He says she had just finished at Metropolitan Community College and he decided to buy her the pricey watch to congratulate her, and was going to take it to her graduation that day. While he waited for the watch to be cleaned and packaged because he picked the last one, a display, he ran over to Sunglass Hut next door to pick up some shades. While making a purchase there, Brown says he was approached by officers out of uniform who arrested him and accused him of using a fake card to buy the watch in Macy’s. Brown says he was handcuffed and walked into a holding area for shoplifters inside of Macy’s on an upstairs level.

“They kept telling me, ‘Your card is fake. You’re going to jail,” Brown said in an interview with the New York Daily News. He also said that officers gave him different reasons for why he was being detained and questioned, despite having multiple forms of ID on him. One explanation from cops was that a suspicious employee called police; then there was the excuse that police were in the store doing a sting operation to find a “crooked clerk.” Either way, Brown and his lawyer, John Elefterakis, say that after 45 minutes and checking through the actor’s bags, police realized they made a mistake and let him go. Though he was late because of the incident, Brown says he was able to make it to his mother’s graduation (police gave him a ride), but that didn’t stop him from sharing his distaste over the incident on Twitter soon after back in June:

“Got arrested at Macy’s while buying my ma a watch. Thought my card was fake cuffed me and tossed me in a cell. Then they realized they were d**ks.

Then the police drove me to my ma’s graduation. Trbl jb #NPYD

Careful [black] ppl. If you drop $1000 at @Macys #NYPD might lock you up for grand larceny BEFORE they ask you for ID. #stillappalled #kinda

Don’t be black while shopping @Macy’s Police might roll on u

A spokesperson for Macy’s issued a statement to say, “We are investigating the alleged claims, as we were just made aware of this lawsuit. We do not comment on matters in litigation.” But Sunday night they claimed that their employees had nothing to do with Brown being accused of fraud, but that it was an operation and decision made by the New York Police Department only.

When asked why Brown decided to come forward months later to share his story and sue, the actor says he was inspired by Trayon Christian’s ordeal at Barneys.

“He was brave.  It’s my duty to follow through.”

Click to the next page to watch Brown’s full interview with Pix 11 about the incident at Macy’s and let us know what you think.

Yikes! Man Sets Up Abduction By Using Nicki Minaj’s Name To Lure 12 Year Old

October 17th, 2013 - By Madame Noire
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Nicki Minaj

Photo Credit: Lia Toby/WENN.com

From EurWeb 

New York police are searching for a man accused of luring a 12-year-old girl into his car after promising her a meeting with rapper Nicki Minaj.

The victim and two friends were approached by a black male in his 20s posing as a modeling scout in the rapper’s native Queens on Sunday (Oct. 13). He convinced the teen pre-teen to get in his SUV while her friends left.

He is then accused of exposing himself and sexually assaulting the girl. She managed to escape and reported the incident to police, before receiving treatment at a local hospital.

Read more at EurWeb.com 

Judge Rules Stop-And-Frisk In NYC Unconstitutional, But Will Continue To Allow It With Strict Regulations

August 12th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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Not too long ago, while moving about in Bed-Stuy, I witnessed two young men being stopped and frisked. Because they weren’t dressed in a stereotypical or seedy manner at all (button down shirts and jeans) I initially they were being stopped for something they did before turning on to the same corner I was on. But as I continued to be nosy, watched them get patted down against a brick wall (and yelled at), only to turn back around and see the police drive away as the men were left where they were standing, hella confused, I realized they clearly had done nothing. Whatever assumptions police had about these men they were clearly wrong about, and all it took to figure this out was to embarrass the men in front of a good number of other people and put a damper on their evening. If you were living under a rock, racial profiling is real.

Stop-and-Frisk has been a major topic for a while now, especially since findings were published in the Village Voice years back that exposed an overwhelming majority of those being stopped were black and Hispanic and that in reality, only one out of eight people were being arrested for actually doing something wrong. Well, according to ABC News, today U.S. District Judge Shira Sheindlin concluded that the current Stop-and-Frisk practice in New York City is unconstitutional as it unfairly allows cops to target black and Hispanic men far more than whites. While Mayor Bloomberg has a been a big advocate of Stop-and-Frisk, saying that the low crime rate over the last few years has been because of the practice, Sheindlin said to day that “Many police practices may be useful for fighting crime — preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example — but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective.”

The city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”

While all of this was concluded, Sheindlin is allowing a form of Stop-and-Frisk to continue, but with major overhaul and strict regulations put in place.

Judge Sheindlin ordered that stop-and-frisk tactics only continue with the oversight of a federal monitor and that body-worn cameras will be attached to cops in one precinct per borough to keep an eye on officers. She also seeks to have a “community-based joint remedial process” take place in order to better the relations between cops and the community, seeing as the civil rights of many have been violated over and over where Stop-and-Frisk has taken place.

We’ll have to wait and see if this actually improves things, but as long as Stop-and-Frisk is allowed, cameras or no cameras, those in power will continue to profile folks by their race and treat those young men in the community minding their business as common criminals.

 

Who Owns The Breast: Man, Child, Or The Woman?

May 20th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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Angelina Jolie

Image Source: WENN.com

“Who owns the breast: child or husband?”

This is the tongue-in- cheek yet provocative question raised recently in Street Talk Naija, a Man on The Street sort of Nigerian web series, which you can watch on YouTube. Speaking with both women and men, the responses were pretty evenly split: half of the folks saying that since the primary purpose of the breast was for feeding, it therefore belongs to the children, while the other half argue that since the woman belongs to her husband, he “owns” everything about her, including her breasts.

Of course, while watching this, I had already summarized this to be a trick question. I mean, we all know that the woman owns the breast. After all, it is attached to her body so – husband or not – it is hard to claim ownership of something that is not in your physical possession. Likewise, just because breasts are also mammary glands doesn’t mean that women are not using the breast right if it’s for purposes outside of being a food source for a baby. Some women do get sexual pleasure from their breasts, and in fact, recent studies have found that ni**le stimulation activates the same brain areas as vaginal and clitoral stimulation. How and in what way her breasts are being used is solely up to her. The funny thing is that as obvious of a point as this was to me, not too many people in the video actually echoed a similar sentiment.

Yet before we attribute this to the backwards thinking of some indigenous Africans (because I know how some folks think), we in Western societies too find ways to enforce, albeit subtly, this belief that the use of a woman’s body is not of her own fruition. And it is a major reason why some folks responded with flat out ridicule when Angelina Jolie announced that she had both breasts removed in hopes of preemptively striking against a hereditary and aggressively deadly form of breast cancer. Nevermind her very real health concerns, keeping a pair of perky breasts was deemed by some as much more important. The negative reaction to her announcement should serve as a reminder that the female form, particularly the breasts, are still very much treated as public domain, created for the sole purpose of sexual arousal – regardless if she sees it that way or not.

Such as the case of Holly Van Voast, a Bronx photographer and performance artist, who filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New York for being repeatedly detained, arrested, and on one occasion, institutionalized, for daring to bare her breasts in public. The easy answer is to say, “Well of course what she did was lewd.” However, the same city, which saw Van Voast topless as obscene and sometimes mentally ill, had a completely different standard for men of all body shapes (including breast-size), who are free to walk around topless without repercussions, including the N*ked Cowboy, a pasty-skinned guy who walks around Time Square, strumming his guitar in just a pair of tighty-whities and cowboy boots.

It is also this double standard when it comes to displays of the female breasts, which has inspired Go Topless Day. According to Policy Mic, such a day looks to bring awareness to the need for gender equality in public decency laws, by protesting across the country in – you guessed it – no tops at all. And according to the New York Times, the Van Voast lawsuit, which was filed on the grounds that the public decency laws are bias, might have been the inspiration behind a recent shift in policy in the NYPD, which is now instructing its 34,000 police officers to stop arresting topless women for indecent exposure.

Despite the shift in NYC laws, women who opt to bare their chests still face an uphill battle in having their bare breasts not viewed as criminal or as a spectacle as demonstrated by video of last year’s Go Topless Day in New York City. In it, men followed around a bunch of topless protesting woman, drooling, ogling and taking pictures. Even as these women hope to convey a much bigger message of ending the need to make natural body functions and form dirty or illegal, the reality is that you can’t change the mindset of some, who still insist on putting their own definition on it – at least not right away. Up until the mid-1900s, men could be arrested for going out in public topless. Today, we have Rick Ross and nobody blinks an eye. Perhaps if more women are willing to bare it all in protest of these ridiculous laws, and more importantly, this mindset, it might change how we as a society view breasts. Basically, as a source of many things, from the giver of life and nourishment, to a part of our sexuality, to being the source of nothing at all.