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Activists Arrested At NYPD Protest Rally Against Stop-And-Frisk Before Trial

Activists gather outside a Manhattan courthouse on Monday, April 30, 2012 (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

Activists gather outside a Manhattan courthouse on Monday, April 30, 2012 (credit: Juliet Papa/1010 WINS)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Nearly two dozen demonstrators arrested last year while protesting the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy have gone on trial.

1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reports

Some 22 people arrested in October outside a Harlem police station appeared in court Monday. Two took offers to get their cases dismissed by staying out of trouble for six months.

Before heading into the courthouse, supporters and the arrested protesters held an impromptu prayer service and rally.

The group on trial included Princeton University professor and civil rights activist Cornel West. It’s one of the biggest groups to go to trial together over political protest arrests in New York City in recent years.

“This disproportionate black and brown brothers who are targeted, we want to let them know we care for them,” West said.

Police say the demonstrators blocked the sidewalk and the precinct entrance and ignored orders to leave.

Defense lawyers have said there’s reasonable doubt that any laws were broken.

Those arrested oppose the police practice of stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking hundreds of thousands of people annually.

Critics say it unfairly target innocent people, predominantly minorities.

“This is supposed to be the free world, but you’re asking me where am I going, where am I coming from. That’s none of your concern,” one man, who said he’s been stopped numerous times, told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa.

But police say the tactic of stop-and-frisk helps combat crime.

“I think the effectiveness of the program is shown in the fact that under the Bloomberg decade, we’ve had a 51 percent decrease in murders in the city,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said earlier this month.

Last year, officers stopped and questioned 684,330 people on the streets under the stop-and-frisk program, a record since the NYPD began tallies in 2002.

Police, meanwhile, are investigating after graffiti was found Monday morning spray painted at the Park Place entrance to City Hall.

In red paint, someone wrote “NYPD Get Your Hands Off Me.”

It’s unclear if the graffiti was related to Monday’s trial of the stop-and-frisk protesters.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)