The New York Police Department (NYPD) has been hit with lawsuits alleging that cops are unfairly targeting businesses that cater to Brooklyn’s Caribbean community.
Former City Councilman Vincentian Dr. Kendall Stewart and his son, Omar, have both filed suit against the NYPD, as well as the city, claiming that their lounge, Cafe Omar, has been unfairly targeted by the NYPD, according to TheGrio, a New York-based black news publication.
Along with other nightlife business owners, the Stewarts claim that the NYPD routinely tries to shut down their operations and their events.
This is especially true, they said, right around the time of the West Indian Day Parade.
“It seems like they are targeting all of the West Indian clubs,” Dr. Stewart told the New York Daily News. “They victimize you when you do anything. They’ll send a squad in there.”
For example, he said, the NYPD shut down a planned event in August 2016 without giving him any reason for the shutdown, according to TheGrio, adding that the event had been sold out and that Stewart had gone to the police precinct to try to work out a better way of communicating.
But when he talked to the police, they told him that he should just refrain from scheduling anything at all around the Labor Day weekend parade, TheGrio said.
“The NYPD did not want any crimes in the jurisdiction of the 67th Precinct,” the lawsuit alleges.
They also told Dr. Stewart to avoid scheduling anything at all around the holidays, like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, TheGrio said, adding that, in 2017, NYPD officers would routinely visit the cafe.
They told the business that they didn’t have a liquor license, even though Stewart showed them that they did, in fact, have one.
Ultimately, the NYPD took US$5,000 worth of alcohol from the establishment, TheGrio.
It said Omar was even arrested for not having a proper liquor license, stating that it’s the arrest that is the basis of his lawsuit.
But the NYPD said it has good reason for coming to the Stewart’s place so often: There are plenty of noise and overcrowding complaints.
“The NYPD responds to locations based on community complaints, including crime complaints and 311 and 911 calls,” NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel said. “As you can see by the history of this establishment, it’s a problematic location.”
But the Stewarts believe that it’s racism, not noise complaints, that has the NYPD on their backs, according to TheGrio.
“The defendants did not treat white-owned businesses in the same manner as they treated the Caribbean-owned business,” the lawsuit says.