MACLC Welcomes First Step Toward Ending Unlawful NYPD Spying
April 16, 2014 (New York, NY). The New York City Police Department (NYPD) confirmed yesterday that it has disbanded the controversial “Demographics Unit” responsible for covertly mapping where American Muslims live, pray, and socialize in New York City and beyond.
The announcement followed a meeting last Wednesday between Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, other senior NYPD officials, and several members of the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), as well as other community-based activists. The meeting resulted from a request by police reform and civil rights advocates, and the participants used the opportunity to articulate how the NYPD’s dragnet has harmed American Muslim communities and why it must come to an end. MACLC has been at the forefront of efforts to reform the NYPD's troubling stance towards Muslim Americans since the Department published its controversial “Radicalization in the West” report in 2007.
MACLC welcomes the NYPD’s decision to disband the Demographics Unit (also known as the “Zone Assessment Unit”), which failed to produce a single lead in over a decade and stigmatized entire communities in New York City. At the same time, MACLC recognizes that this announcement is just a first step. Demographic mapping was but one dimension of a sprawling police surveillance apparatus that continues to treat entire congregations and community groups as “terrorism enterprises” without suspicion of criminal activity.
MACLC calls for an end to all aspects of the Intelligence Bureau's unlawful spying program.
“While we have long demanded that the NYPD shut down the Zone Assessment Unit, that step constitutes only modest progress,” explained Ramzi Kassem, Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York and Director of the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project. “That unit should have never existed in the first place and other damaging and unlawful aspects of the police surveillance program endure.”
“Entire congregations, organizations, Muslim Student Associations, businesses should no longer be placed under police surveillance without concrete suspicion of criminal conduct,” said Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York.
Monami Maulik, Founder and Executive Director of DRUM - South Asian Organizing Center, added, “There are many unanswered questions about whether the already collected data will continue to be used, or if it will be segregated and out of reach for future policing activities. We are also concerned about whether profiling practices will continue in other forms.”
In addition to placing incoming police officials on notice of the very real harms of surveillance, MACLC members attending the April 9 meeting laid out their expectations for meaningful change, including a process for providing input and receiving information on the NYPD’s effort to revamp the Department’s intelligence gathering guidelines. New rules must also be put in place to ensure that the NYPD will not engage in intelligence operations without, at a minimum, reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and reliable, independent mechanisms to enforce strict compliance with that standard.
The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC) is a New York-based coalition of citizens, community and faith leaders, organizers, advocates, attorneys, and organizations. MACLC aims to give voice to absent perspectives on issues of national security, counterterrorism, law enforcement, and civil rights, especially as they impact Muslim communities in post-9/11 New York City.
Press Contacts: Linda Sarsour, (917) 306-3323, email@example.com; Ramzi Kassem (718) 340-4558, firstname.lastname@example.org.
AAANY Statement on Appointment of Philip Eure as New NYPD Inspector GeneralMedia Contacts:
Faiza Ali 718.724.3041, email@example.com
Linda Sarsour 917.306.3323 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Brooklyn, NY – March 28th, 2014) The Arab American Association of New York welcomes the appointment of Philip Eure as the new NYPD Inspector General. The appointment of the first Inspector General for the nation's largest police force brings New York City one step closer to implementing necessary reforms that hold the New York Police Department accountable for it's discriminatory policies and practices.
For over a decade, the NYPD infiltrated houses of worship and community organizations and monitored constitutionally protected activities, all without suspicion of criminal activity. Muslims were deemed inherently suspect and our entire faith criminalized as a matter of policy by the NYPD.
Policing by profiling law abiding New Yorkers is a total disregard for civil rights and compromises the safety of everyone. It is not sound or effective policing and it must end. Arab and Muslim New Yorkers call on the new Inspector General Philip Eure to prioritize an investigation of the NYPD's unwarranted Muslim surveillance program.
Nothing to see here: Judge rules spying on NJ Muslims is perfectly fine“Don't like it ? Go back from whence you came. Don't come here and DEMAND! Why don't you try a little integration while you've got so much energy.” This was one person’s colorful comment on an article by Al Jazeera America regarding a recent ruling coming out of the U.S. District court in New Jersey, reflecting the bias in the minds of far too many when it comes to seeing American Muslims as the other. Unfortunately, this kind of bias was far too prevalent throughout Thursday’s ten page court ruling.
Last week, the first lawsuit against the NYPD’s Muslim surveillance program was dismissed in a federal court in New Jersey by Judge William Martini. Judge Martini went as far as to shift the blame for any harm done to New Jersey’s Muslim residents, not on the NYPD’s bias-based policing but on the Associated Press for bringing the story to light in the first place. The ruling sends a dangerous and unfortunate message; that all Muslim Americans are fair game to blanket suspicion and discriminatory policing, for no reason other than their faith. Judge Martini claims “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.” This mode of thinking is so problematic because it validates the voices of those who seek to sow seeds of fear and push an Islamophobic agenda, and plants ever deeper feelings of alienation and rejection among Muslim Americans. The lawsuit was filed in part by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which released a statement shortly after the ruling expressing exactly how many Muslim Americans now feel “In addition to willfully ignoring the harm...suffered from the NYPD’s illegal spying program, by upholding the NYPD’s blunderbuss Muslim surveillance practices, the court’s decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion (the entire statement can be read here).”
However unfortunate this ruling may be, our community’s fight doesn’t end here. We still have other lawsuits challenging the NYPD’s discriminatory operations and we need to stay strong and organized to see the struggle through.
Statement re Agreement in Landmark Stop and Frisk CaseJanuary 30, 2014
The Arab American Association of NY issued the following statement in response to the agreement in the landmark stop and frisk case:
For decades, advocates and community members have fought to end abusive and discriminatory practices by the NYPD. Today's decision to drop the appeal of a landmark stop and frisk case by Mayor Bill de Blasio, puts New York City on a path to end racial profiling as a matter of practice and sends a message to communities that the new administration is ready to bring necessary reforms to the NYPD. Whether it's stop and frisk or the NYPD's unwarranted Muslim surveillance program, policies that criminalize race or religion is bad policing that alienates communities and violates civil liberties, leaving us less safe and less free.
For more information, contact Linda Sarsour, Executive Director at 917-306-3323 or email@example.com.
MPAC's Policy Research Fellowship ProgramApply for MPAC and AAANY's Research Fellowship based in NYC regarding the affects of NYPD's Muslim surveillance program on civic engagement in the American Muslim community. Stipend included. Fellowship based at Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn.
For more information and to apply, visit: http://ht.ly/sghKT.
My Experience as a Voter Registration FellowAs the Voter Registration Fellow at the Arab American Association of NY, I was given the chance to experience and work with the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities in an entirely different way. I worked with a great team of volunteers who went above and beyond all expectations; together we registered over 400 voters across the city for the 2013 NYC mayoral election.
As our team struggled to get as many community members as possible registered to vote, we saw a lot of reactions ranging from cold resistance to jubilant enthusiasm. We got the chance to interact with diverse peoples at parades and festivals with the Arab and South Asian communities, college campuses, youth groups, libraries, and parks. We had unique conversations with community members during our phone banks, and got to experience that special satisfaction when you change an apathetic person’s mind and suddenly they’re looking forward to voting. This felt like a major triumph after having to exercise extreme patience with others who were far from polite on the phone. We were really able to see what a long way we’ve come as an immigrant community, and also what challenges we still have ahead of us.
The Muslim, Arab and South Asian community, so often lumped into one demographic, is like a sleeping giant. Given our tremendous numbers, our potential to make noticeable, lasting change in our city is enormous, though many of us haven’t quite woken up to this realization just yet. There are, however, many grassroots groups, community leaders, and newly elected politicians in our city this year that are conscious of our hidden strength. The 2013 elections saw city council seats all over New York up for election. This drew great excitement in the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian community; the political layout of the whole city could potentially be reorganized in a way that would suit our needs and interests.
Our vote is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal, but it needs to be more widely understood and utilized. Some in our community are still very reluctant to exercise their right to vote, or even register. This is an attitude that we need to move away from. However, we’ve also encountered many people who are excited about voting and being a part of the political process. In order to position our community into a powerful voting block, we need to push against that reluctance and completely embrace the excitement of voting, taking ownership over the direction of our city.
At one of the community events in Brooklyn where our voter registration team was combing through the crowds, mayoral candidates came to speak one after the other to try to win over voters from the South Asian community. We need to take a moment to realize how significant this is. For candidates to come and try to win us over at the height of their campaign means they see us as a people worth investing in.
The importance of our community in the eyes of politicians must continue. If we want to win major battles like ending the NYPD surveillance of Muslims and having Eid incorporated into the public school calendar, then we need to remain a community that is civically engaged. We definitely have the numbers; New York has long been a city in which people of color hold the majority ticket. Unfortunately, numbers are only visible to politicians when they represent registered voters who turn out to the polls in droves for every election. It’s through engaging our system and staying active as voters that we keep our communities on the agenda and not the sidelines.
Voting is just the beginning. To keep pushing for reforms in our city, we have to be recognized as a people who make waves and mobilize even when it’s not an election year. If we stay vigilant, policy makers will think twice about passing legislation that marginalizes the Arab, Muslims, and South Asians of New York or any other racial or religious minorities. We must remind our politicians, even the ones we support, that the next election is their judgment day, and we will be ready.
The Arab American Association of NY today released the following statement in response to the latest leaked documents regarding the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims program:
“The latest set of leaked documents from the New York Police Department confirms that for over a decade, Arab and Muslim communities have been under unwarranted and widespread surveillance by police without evidence of criminal activity. Mosques were subjected to “terrorism enterprise investigations” and confidential informants made attempts to infiltrate community based organizations including the Arab American Association of NY, the very institutions the NYPD sought to build relationships with.
"The NYPD’s approach to counterterrorism policing seems to start from a place that all Muslims are inherently suspect raising serious civil rights and safety concerns. Subjecting whole communities to blanket surveillance because of their faith is not good policing. These tactics alienate law-abiding Muslims and deepen mistrust between law enforcement and communities. That breakdown in communication puts all New Yorkers at risk.
“We demand an end to all forms of discriminatory policing practices targeting law-abiding Muslims and urge the Department of Justice to take immediate steps to open an investigation into the New York Police Department’s unwarranted surveillance program."
For more information, contact Linda Sarsour, firstname.lastname@example.org, 917 306 3323 or Faiza N. Ali, email@example.com, 718 724 3041.
Read the AP article written by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo HERE.
Advisory: Arab Americans to Celebrate Culture & Contributions As Immigration Debates Heats Up--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-- Media Advisory for Sunday, August 11, 2013
Arab Americans to Celebrate Culture & Contributions As Immigration Debates Heats Up(Brooklyn, NY, 8/10/13) – In the midst of an intense debate on immigration reform, the Arab American Association of NY (AAANY) will host its 7th Annual Arab American Bazaar, an outdoor festival highlighting Arab culture and contributions to New York City. Arab Americans are an emerging group with a rich history in giving back, building community and civic engagement. This year’s Bazaar, held on Sunday, August 11, 2013 at Shore Road Park in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, will feature music, dance, and community leaders and elected officials. Throughout the day, AAANY will have teams of volunteers collecting postcards in support of immigration reform and registering voters. What: Arab Americans to Celebrate Culture & Contributions As Immigration Debates Heats Up When: Sunday, August 11th, 1:00-7pm Where: Shore Road Park, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (at 79th Street) Contact: Faiza Ali, firstname.lastname@example.org, 718 724 3041; Linda Sarsour, email@example.com, 917 306 3323 -END- The AAANY is a non-profit grassroots organization located in the heart of the Arab community in Brooklyn, NY. Our mission is to support and empower the Arab-American, Arab immigrant and Muslim communities by providing services to help and urging them to become active members of society.
Will you take 2 minutes to call to Congressman Grimm?Thank Congressman Grimm for Supporting Legalization, Urge Him to Champion Immigration Reform
Last week, House Republicans convened a special meeting to discuss how to move immigration reform forward. On the heels of that meeting, Congressman Michael Grimm (NY-11) said publicly that he supports legalization and said “obviously legalization leads to citizenship eventually.”
Raise you voices & take action: Call Congressman Grimm, thank him for supporting legalization and urge him to champion reform that creates a pathway to citizenship and reunites families!
• Call 718-630-5277
• Say: "My name is ___ and I am from [City, State]. I’m calling to thank Congressman Grimm for supporting legalization of undocumented immigrants. I urge him to become a leading champion of comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and to OPPOSE bills like the SAFE Act, Border Security Results Act, Agricultural Guestworker Act, and SKILLS Visas Act. These are not real reforms to our immigration system. We need immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship and reunites separated families. Thank you."
Let’s show him that we will stand behind him as he pushes a path to citizenship through the House! Share this alert with community members, family and friends.
Take your advocacy to Twitter! Sample Tweets .@repmichaelgrimm Staten Island & Brooklyn communities need #CIR! #TimeIsNow #NY4CIR .@repmichaelgrimm says that legalization leads to citizenship. New York’s #immigrant communities thank you for standing up for legalization! #TimeIsNow #CIR13 .@repmichaelgrimm Thank you for taking a stand for legalization. Your support for #immigration is reflected in your district! #TimeIsNow