New York City
A federal judge has rejected (PDF) the New York Police Department's proposed settlement of a lawsuit accusing the department of improperly monitoring the city's Muslim community. Following the September 11 attacks, the NYPD has reportedly used undercover cops to monitor Muslim neighborhoods, organizations and mosques in the name of national security. In January, a settlement was reached, calling for a stricter modification of the police surveillance "Handschu" guidelines (PDF) and a civilian representative installed for five years to ensure that the NYPD complies. The NYPD declined to accept all proposed modifications yet acquiesced to the establishment of a civilian representative. Nevertheless, US District Judge Charles Haight rejected the proposed settlement, stating that it does not sufficiently protect the constitutional rights of Muslim citizens. Haight suggested that the NYPD further clarify the representative's role, and take additional measures to ensure guideline compliance such as requiring reporting to the court. While expressing disappointment in the ruling, the New York City law department stated its intention to address the judge's concerns.
Ahmad Rahami, the suspect in last week's bombings in New York and New Jersey, was charged (PDF) in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York Sept. 20. The charges include: Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Bombing a Place of Public Use, Destruction of Property by Means of Fire or Explosive, and Use of a Destructive Device During and in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence. Rahami is also facing similar charges (PDF) in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey. The Sept. 17 bombings injured 29 in New York; no one was injured in the New Jersey attack. Rahami was arrested two days later after sustaining injuries during a shootout with police in in Linden, NJ. The suspect also faces charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer stemming from the shootout.
On the evening of Sept. 7, some 30 New York City activists gathered outside the premises of the Brooklyn Commons on Atlantic Ave. to protest the appearance there of the latest 9-11 conspiracy guru, Christopher Bollyn—who happens to be even more overtly anti-Semitic and tainted by neo-Nazi connections than most 9-11 conspiracy gurus. Many carried signs reading "Another Jewish anti-Zionist against anti-Semitism" and "No platform for bigotry." The door was guarded by a taciturn muscle-man who spent most of the two hours of the event menacingly punching the air with an exercise hand-grip, only stopping to open the door for approved attendees. Some protesters did manage to infiltrate the event, and were roughly ejected. There were a few brief scuffles outside as well; Brooklyn Commons management called the police, and one protester was arrested. Photos are online at Storify.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) came to a settlement agreement on Jan. 7 in two civil rights lawsuits accusing the NYPD of wrongfully monitoring Muslims after the 9-11 attacks. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in October revived the civil rights lawsuit filed by a coalition of Muslim groups that accused the NYPD of conducting unjustified surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. The police department has agreed to reinstate a civilian attorney to a panel that will ensure that no first amendment rights are violated during all surveillance. The appointee will be an outside observer with no connection to the police department and appointed by the mayor. The department has also agreed to place a time limit on investigations and to uphold the existing NYPD policy that it is illegal to profile based upon religious activity. The NYPD has not acknowledged improper monitoring of Muslims and has made no admission of guilt within the settlement. The department states that the changes enforce already guiding principles in use.
On the evening of Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, activists gathered at New York City's Columbus Circle, overlooked by the Trump International Hotel, for a rally in solidarity with Iraqi and Syrian refugees—under the slogan "Human Rights TRUMP Oppression." Favored chants included "Say it loud, say it clear; Refugees are welcome here!" and "Dump Trump!"—an exhortation aimed at the GOP over the candidate's call for banning all Muslims from entering the US, but the latest in his relentless barrage of xenophobic bluster. Featured speakers included representatives of the Arab American Association of New York, MENA Solidarity Network, Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, Black Lives Matter—and a group of Syrian Americans, accompanied by a refugee recently arrived from war-torn Homs, whose comments in Arabic were translated. This group spoke against a backdrop of Syria's rebel flag and led chants of "Assad, ISIS, they're the same; Only difference is the name!"
A lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims can proceed, the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 13, opening the way for a trial on the constitutionality of spying on New Jersey mosques, schools and businesses. Likening the surveillance program to the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, the Third Circuit found that it was based "on the false and stigmatizing premise" that Muslim religious identity 'is a permissible proxy for criminality." Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit in 2012 on behalf of 11 individuals or organizations, including business owners, students and a decorated Iraq war veteran, who said they had been harmed by the surveillance. Plaintiffs alleged that NYPD detectives monitored stores, schools, restaurants and at least 20 mosques in Paterson, Newark, Rutgers University, and other New Jersey locations. The surveillance program, ostensibly suspended last year, was first reported in a Pulitzer-winning Associated Press series. The Third Circuit reversed a February 2014 dismissal of the suit, remanding it to a US District Court in New Jersey.
Last night, this blogger visited the 9-11 Museum—invited by a friend who got free passes that evening because she worked in the area of the disaster in September 2001. I certainly was not going to pay the absurd $24 entrance fee. There was also a surreal irony to the fact that entering the museum entailed a full airport-style security check, complete with X-rays, full-body metal-detector scans, complete emptying of pockets, removal of belts, and so on. And this at a supposed memorial to American freedom. Talk about the "terrorists win." The museum itself is in many ways impressive—starting with its sheer scale. It is actually built in the World Trade Center "Bathtub," the huge foundation pit with reinforced walls to keep the waters of the Hudson River at bay. These walls are left visible, loaning an atmosphere of stark industrial majesty. The Mohawk iron workers who risked their lives in the construction of the WTC are, at least, briefly mentioned. There is inevitably a lot of maudlin and/or bellicose patriotism on display, but any honest presentation would have to reflect that, and it is generally shown with a sense of objectivity.
From Gothamist, Aug. 11:
Cobble Hill Locals Mourn Death of
Beloved Oriental Pastry & Grocery Co-Owner
Cobble Hill shopkeepers and local residents are reeling from the sudden death of Muyassar Moustapha, who was fatally run over on Atlantic Avenue on Sunday night. Moustapha, 66, was a neighborhood fixture who for decades operated the Oriental Pastry & Grocery on Atlantic, just steps from where he was struck by a Mercedes driver after picking up ice cream at the Key Food across the street.