I met Jazz Hayden, the subject of this story, the same way Sharon Kyle met him, and in precisely the same company. The only difference was that I met Jazz in Chicago instead of LA. In other words, this story is kind of personal. Hayden, a reformed criminal with a record as long as your arm, understands the dynamics of what Michelle Alexander calls “the New Jim Crow” from the inside out. Recently, his efforts to undermine the NYPD’s infamous “stop and frisk” style of policing, Jazz took to photographing officers in action. They didn’t like having their picture taken, and now Jazz faces criminal charges that could place him back in prison. Please read this account and join me in signing the Change.org petition at the bottom of the story.
In November of 2011 Dick and I attended an event in south Los Angeles where we met three friends face to face for the first time. Even though we were meeting for the first time in persom, I characterize them as “friends” because we established a bond online as we all worked to support the work of Michelle Alexander. All three live in New York and all three are progressive activists. When we learned that they’d be attending a conference in Los Angeles, Dick and I extended an invitation to have them come to our home in Mt. Washington for dinner during one of the evenings they were here in town.
We caught up with our friends — Anna, Jazz, and Amir — at the Bonaventure Hotel on an evening in November after attending the conference earlier in the day. Learning that they had never been to Los Angeles, Dick and I took them on a little tour, stopping at the Occupy LA encampment which was still in place on the lawn around the Los Angeles City Hall. We then headed north to our home in Mt. Washington where I had prepared dinner.
The evening we spent with Anna, Jazz and Amir was full of laughter, fun, music, heated discussion and a lot more laughter. Spending the evening with them was a little like going back home for an evening for me. I am a native New Yorker but have lived in Los Angeles for most of my adult life. Jazz, Amir and Anna talked about the things in New York that I miss, like the seasons but also about the many injustices — specifically, New Yorks rampant Stop and Frisk 4th amendment violations. Our evening with Jazz, Anna, and Amir was brief — too brief. We took them back to the hotel vowing to stay in touch.
And we’ve kept that promise. We’ve sent each other frequent messages via Facebook, texts, and email. I learned recently that Jazz and I share a birthday — May 12th — and that Anna went back to school for an advanced degree as did Amir. All three have continued with the work they do as social justice activists. So I was saddened when I learned that Jazz, a committed human rights activist and citizen reporter, was arrested not long after visiting Los Angeles.
Anna put out a Facebook message this week giving more details about the arrest. Her words:
“Joseph “Jazz” Hayden was arrested in December 2011 by police officers after an illegal stop and search of his car. This stop was direct retaliation for Mr. Hayden’s work in the Harlem community filming police officers conducting illegal car stops and stop and frisks. Several months before, Mr. Hayden filmed the very same officers who arrested him conducting an illegal car stop. For more information on Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, please go here.
Jazz has stated unequivocally that this stop and arrest was in retaliation for his relentless work as a Citizen Reporter covering police/community relationships in the Harlem community. To view Jazz’s body of work covering 4 years of police interactions with the community, click here.
When Jazz was stopped, the police searched the car he was in and found a pocket knife and a mini replica baseball bat souvenir. For this, he was charged with two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree, a felony punishable with two to seven years of prison.
I am writing to ask LA Progressive readers to support Jazz and, by extention, all citizen journalists, by signing the petition below demanding that all charges against Joseph Hayden be dropped and that the NYPD be put on notice that citizens have a right to monitor their “public servants” without retaliation as they perform their duties.
The significance of these cases of retaliation for covering “our servants” extends beyond Joseph “Jazz” Hayden. These police actions raise the larger issue of their role in communities of color, the rights of citizens to monitor law enforcement, and the rights/role of new media in covering the news.
I am urging all who read this post to sign this petition below or to access it onChange.org