NEW YORK, NY – NYC civil rights and minority groups like the Arab American Association of New York, ASHA for Women, National Lawyers Guild NYC and many others have signed on to support Chaumtoli Huq. Huq, a South Asian, Muslim mother, activist and former attorney for the NYC Public Advocates office, was recently a victim of overpolicing when she was arrested without cause in Times Square. At the time, she was wearing traditional South Asian attire and returning from a nonviolent, pro-Palestinian demonstration. She and many civil rights and community organizations believe that this was the cause of the police discrimination.
“One officer [was] holding my arm upwards such that I had to bend forward, and the other was squeezing my arm. My shoe fell off, and I was dragged without it. I told them it was hurting,” said Chaumtoli. “As a former attorney for the Public Advocates office with experience in these matters, I can say that the officer’s actions were completely unwarranted, and I felt discriminated against based on what the officers first saw, which was a woman of color coming from a Palestinian rally.”
This arrest is characteristic of a pattern of the NYPD’s aggressive overpolicing of people of color and persons lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. It also shows a lack of gender sensitivity and ignorance towards the diverse cultures of New York, as the police questioned Ms. Huq’s family relationship and that she had not taken her husband’s last name.
The letter, in addition to recounting the incident, includes demands such as officer accountability, increased transparency, additional police training and further steps to cultivate trust between communities and officers. For additional information, please see our letter.
“As a long-time New Yorker and a Latino, I’ve seen over-policing in my own community, as have other minorities in their own communities in this city: the brutality exposed on #MyNYPD didn’t come from nowhere. These events don’t take place in a vacuum, either: Chaumtoli was arrested around the same time as Eric Garner’s choking death at the hands of the NYPD; Phillip Banks, the top black cop in NYC, choosing to resign rather than be stuck in a mostly-powerless position; Michael Brown’s death and the police overreaction to demonstrations in Ferguson; and at a time that the nation is still reflecting on the significance of the Trayvon Martin shooting,” said Caesar Vargas, whose organization, Dream Action Coalition, signed on to the letter.
“Chamtoli Huq was arrested and unfairly brutalized by the NYPD. This is a disgrace and must be addressed immediately, especially if the NYPD is to retain a measure of legitimacy in diverse NYC communities,” said Mazeda Uddin of ASAAL, a signatory to the letter.
“We demand justice for Chaumtoli Huq. We also demand systemic reforms in the discriminatory profiling and targeting of people of color, Muslim, South Asian, Arab, homeless, queer, trans and gender non-conforming communities. Policies like Broken Windows policing have been used by the NYPD, are detrimental to our city and, in the case of Ms. Huq’s, is an example of the NYPD’s abuse of power that has criminalized entire communities,” said Cathy Dang, Executive Director of CAAV Organizing Asian Communities.
“Chaumtoli’s case draws a clear connection to what we are experiencing with the over policing and excessive use of force in Sunset Park, Brooklyn as well as what people of color are living with through out the city of New York. This is a direct result of “Broken Windows,” a policy throwback to the 80‘s ‘tough on crime’ movement that has led police to crack down even further on minority communities,” said Dennis Flores of El Grito de Sunset Park, another signatory to the letter.
“As Martin Luther King believed, ‘Injustice against one is injustice against all.’ Women for Afghan Women stands with our sister Chaumtoli Huq in her struggle for justice,” said Women for Afghan Women in a statement.
A cross section of community-based groups and individuals are calling for a town hall meeting, a conversation and a dialogue, to remind those who hold office that the police don’t hold absolute power,” said Jason Jeremias of Price of Silence.
From Muslim organizations, to Latino organizations, to African-American organizations to policing organizations, there has been outrage felt broadly over the incident because it represents an experience that has become commonplace broadly across communities. While the typical victim is not politically powerful enough to complain, in this unique instance, we have been afforded the chance to unite on overpolicing on behalf of all those affected, and we demand this issue be addressed.