New York Muslims Fight Back Against Police Department's Institutionalized Paranoia About Islam
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“These practices paint a dangerous picture of the ways in which law enforcement engages with Muslim communities under the banner of national security,” reads an August 25, 2011 statement from the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition. “These McCarthyite spying techniques threaten the civil rights of all Americans, and deepen the long-existing rifts between communities of color and police in the United States.”
Then came the most recent revelation about the showing of The Third Jihad. Although the Village Voice first reported on the story last January, a Jan. 23, 2012 New York Times report, based on police documents obtained by the Brennan Center, has received a lot more attention due to the AP expose on the NYPD's spying program.
“Seeing that propaganda like this is being used in training is almost logical in light of Associated Press reports on the NYPD's comprehensive and warrantless surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers,” said CAIR-NY's McGoldrick.
After the most recent revelations broke, Browne's lies about the NYPD film screening became a hot media topic. The AP ran a January 30, 2012 article titled “New York Police Spokesman Comes Under Fire.” The two free daily papers in New York led with the story after it broke, and some city council members have called for more oversight of the NYPD as a result of the incident. Protests calling for Kelly's resignation have kept the story in the news, and an editorial, an opinion piece and a column in the New York Times were published in recent days criticizing the NYPD.
A burgeoning alliance between black and Latino activists working against “stop-and-frisk” police tactics, Muslim activists and Occupy Wall Street could keep the momentum going. Jumaane Williams, a black city council member and OWS supporter whose own run-in with NYPD has turned him into an outspoken advocate against police abuse, spoke at the rally and denounced the NYPD's “corrosive culture.”
The coming together of long-time anti-police brutality activists and OWS was chronicled in The Awl in a report by Michael Tracey. Titled “ A Fresh Movement Against the NYPD's Culture of Misconduct,” the article detailed how OWS has reinvigorated New York's anti-police brutality movement. As Tracey shows, the alliance is natural given OWS' experience with police brutality—something communities of color have had to combat for decades. And OWS' attention to police brutality has also been a boon to Muslim activists.
On October 21, 2011, a CAIR-NY-organized day of prayer was held in Zuccotti Park. Although it attracted little attention outside the anti-Muslim blogosphere, it was a sign of an alliance to come.
“CAIR-NY’s endorsement of Friday Prayer at Occupy Wall Street stems from a conviction that many of the issues brought into the international spotlight by Occupy Wall Street affect Muslim communities disproportionately,” read a statement announcing the action. “Especially in light of the recently exposed NYPD surveillance in Muslim Student Organizations, we need to unite in our repudiation of government corruption and our rejection of the political effort to marginalize our voice.”
A month of organizing followed the prayer action, and a much larger rally at Foley Square against the NYPD spying program was held in November with hundreds of people, including a contingent from OWS. Muslim youth broke into chants of “We are the 99 percent” as they marched to NYPD headquarters to make their discontent known.
“It's really critical we create this broad-based movement,” said Faiza Ali, a community activist and organizer who attended the November rally. “On the whole there's a general distaste for the police department and the way they've been operating, especially recently given the police brutality issues being raised at Occupy Wall Street...All of these issues are connected, and [we have] the support of Occupy Wall Street on this issue.”