One of my favorite quotations is from Anatole France: The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
Sometimes that is the case. And sometimes it is not.
In my neighborhood, a huge percentage of stop and frisks that I have witnessed, start with an open bottle of alcohol. A group of day laborers, sitting on a stoop, passing around a bottle of Miller Light inside of a brown paper bag, will most likely have their bottle smashed on the sidewalk,
be thrown against a brick wall, searched, humiliated, intimidated, and then probably given a ticket, rather than being taken into custody. Shockingly, I’ve seen the cops do the same thing to some guy sitting there drinking a malta,
because cops don’t seem to know what malta is, and they *think* the guy is drinking beer.
I’ve seen this scene so many times.
But they are breaking the law. I guess.
I live three blocks from the strip where day laborers sip beer after a long day of physical labor, and prostitutes of both genders, voluntary and involuntary, try to make a meager living. I can walk safely down the strip because it is not a violent place. For someone like me.
My part of the neighborhood is enjoying gentrification. It happened so slowly I didn’t recognize it initially. First, the white gay men arrived,
buying up the gracious pre-war apartments and decorating them with art deco antiques. Then the artists came. Now the young families are arriving, and pushing McLaren strollers down the tree-lined narrow streets.
In front of my gracious pre-war building, on summer evenings, it is not uncommon to see a group of stylishly dressed gay men sitting on the stoop, sipping trendy cocktails out of long-stemmed glasses and stabbing nice hors d’oeurves with little multi-colored plastic swords. The police pass by without stopping.
One late summer night a couple of years ago, I was sitting on the same stoop with another mom as our two pre-schoolers rode tricycles up and down the sidewalk. She was holding her little baby in her arms, and we were each sipping a beer. Two cops on horseback rode down the street, and the little kids jumped up and down excitedly. I tried to discretely hide my beer behind a bag, but my friend walked right up to the cops on horseback, baby in own arm, beer in the other, and the friendly cops stopped and let the bigger kids touch the horses. We made some pleasant chit chat with the cops as the kids squealed and giggled with delight, and then the cops waved goodbye and the kids blew kisses to the horses and then returned to their tricycles and the moms returned to our stoop to finish our beers.
In my neighborhood, there seem to be some problems in terms of administering this majestic equality equally.