NEW YORK (AFP) - Activists protesting random checks by police in New York celebrated on Tuesday after authorities dropped most charges against a young man who has become a symbol of opposition to the practice.
Critics of so-called "stop-and-frisk" actions say they unfairly target minority groups, while the police view the checks as a way of cracking down on crime in the largest US city.
Noche Diaz, a 24-year-old Bronx native, was charged with interfering during "stop-and-frisk" actions by the New York Police Department in 2011 and 2012. He faced up to two years behind bars.
But at the start of his trial in a Manhattan court on Tuesday, the prosecution offered to drop most of the charges against him, in a deal in which Diaz pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
"He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to ten days of community service. The other charges were abandoned," a prosecution spokesman told AFP.
The decision was hailed as a victory by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and some thirty activists waved banners and flags outside the court.
Diaz welcomed the outpouring of support, calling it "energizing." "They are standing with me because (of) what I represent in terms of standing with the people who (are) under attack in this city," he told AFP.
"Some of you out there have never been stopped and frisked, and maybe you don't know what it means to be a young person coming up in New York City or maybe you know some people and you've heard these stories.
"It's like background music when you grow up in the city." More than four million New Yorkers, mostly blacks and Latinos, have been subjected to checks and interrogations by police on the city's streets since 2004, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Nearly nine out of 10 "stopped and frisked" New Yorkers have been "completely innocent" the group said, citing police data.
Diaz still faces another trial on similar charges in Bronx courts, with the first hearing scheduled for May 1.