2014: NYPD raid of Grant Houses





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Contributed date

November 20, 2019 - 4:10pm

Critical Commentary

Shortly before Expansion plans were implemented, NYPD officers arrested 40 young people living at Grant and Manhattanville Houses alleged to be members of gangs in one of the largest police raids in the city’s history. Following extensive internet surveillance, many were arrested on charges of conspiracy, assault and weapons offenses in connection with violence in and around housing developments and were sent to Rikers Island to await their charges. As Hall argued, control over the “long haul” of a crisis emerges in slow stages, whereby the state wins the right to “act on suspicion” when times are exceptional and there is a “moral panic.”[1] While the right to life of the young people was preserved, their right to social life was deadened by seclusion from society. This seclusion was deepened by the photographs taken of them, the many reporters and police present, and the theatricality of the scene. Media outlets set the discourse, using terms such as “rivalries” and “feuds” that socially isolated residents. The mass arrests followed years spent by activists imploring that Columbia aid in defusing tensions among young people by using funds to provide programs and community centers. The father of one of the people arrested affirmed that when the young people had no programs to keep occupied and the residents asked for help, “they got a raid instead.”[2] A day after the arrests, District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. claimed at a conference on public health and incarceration at Columbia that the acts of violence (and violent language) enacted by the young people who were arrested were “senseless.” Residents claimed that they were not senseless if regarded from the perspective of the young people.[3]

[1] Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, & Brian Roberts, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, The State, and Law and Order (London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1978), 323.

[2] James McKinley Jr., “Harlem Man Found Guilty of Murder in 4-year Gang War,” The New York Times (2016).

[3] Daryl Khan, “Harlem Residents: We Asked City for Help, We Got a Raid Instead,” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (2014).