Thousands of people from civil rights groups walked down New York City's Fifth Avenue in total silence Sunday, marching in protest of "stop-and-frisk" tactics employed by city police.
The quiet was interrupted only by the tapping of feet on the pavement and birds chirping as protesters strode along Central Park from Harlem to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's town house on the Upper East Side townhouse.
For almost 30 city blocks, the march moved slowly and silently. Then, as they passed Bloomberg's home on East 79th Street, the crowd erupted in protest chants. The house was blocked by police barricades.
It was not known if Bloomberg was at home when the protesters passed.
Critics say the NYPD's practice of stopping, questioning and searching people who police consider suspicious is illegal and humiliating to thousands of law-abiding blacks and Hispanics. Last year, the NYPD stopped more than 600,000 people, up from more than 90,000 a decade ago.
Tensions increased between police officers and a group of protesters who tried to keep walking down Fifth Avenue below East 77th Street.
Police officers on scooters lined both sides of the avenue and officers on foot formed a line to keep people on the sidewalk. Several scuffles broke out between screaming protesters and officers who pushed them behind barricades on the sidewalk.
"The silence ended and the people's voices came out," said Matthew Swaye, 34, a former Bronx school teacher and self-described longtime Occupy protester.
"We were told to go home and we weren't ready to go yet," said Swaye, who added that his wife, Christina Gonzalez, 25, was one of the protesters arrested in the melee.
The practice of silent marches dates to 1917, when the NAACP led a protest through New York against lynchings and segregation in the U.S.