Arrested for Standing on a Sidewalk

It’s a familiar scene.

One parent takes their children into a restaurant to use the restroom while the other parent waits outside. It’s been done by many of us — as parents, aunties, uncles, siblings. When kids have to go, they have to go.

But on July 19 this year, this simple and innocent scenario ended with the arrest and brutalization of one of the parents.

Absurd and humiliating acts of police overreach have also become familiar in this country. There are countless incidents of false arrest, harassment and use of force against innocent victims by the police every day in the U.S. The cases that end in loss of life garner headlines (sometimes), but mostly we don’t hear of the seemingly minor and mundane cases, unless they happen to us or to our family and friends.

But this time, the police picked on the wrong person.

Chaumtoli Huq, a well-respected human rights lawyer who is on a leave of absence as general counsel for New York City’s office of Public Advocate, was arrested in the middle of Times Square (a place often filled with tens of thousands of people standing in public) for, it seems, simply standing in public.

Standing in public and being South Asian and Muslim that is.

Huq — who was born in Bangladesh — and her family, had attended a rally in support of Palestinian rights that day. Then they took the young kids to the restroom at Ruby Tuesday nearby. Even though she was standing “inches” from the restaurant windows, police told Huq to clear the sidewalk. Huq said, “I’m not in anybody’s way. Why do I have to move? What’s the problem?”

That’s when police grabbed Huq and slammed her against the wall. She called for help and stated out loud, “I am not resisting arrest.” Police twisted her arm behind her back and handcuffed her. The officers rifled through her purse without probable cause. The police arrested her and took her away before her family even returned from the restroom.

To make matters worse, when Huq’s husband went to the jail, he aroused suspicion from police because he had a different last name than his wife. “In America wives take the names of their husbands,” the officer said.

Well then. What year is this again?

According to DNAInfo, Huq “was held for more than nine hours in lockup before being arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, court records show.”

Huq and her family have subsequently filed a complaint with the New York Police Department’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. They are also suing the NYPD and the City of New York in Federal Court for violating her civil rights, charging the police used “unreasonable and wholly unprovoked force” and claiming the arrest was part of a pattern of harassment of people of color in the city.

Huq told New York Daily News “I was hesitant to bring a case. My job is to be behind the scenes, and help all New Yorkers,” she said. But she realized “that I can use what happened to me to raise awareness about overpolicing in communities of color. I want there to be a dialogue on policing and community relations,” she said.

Let’s hope that conversation is one good outcome of this terrible and avoidable incident.

At the Alliance for a Just Society we speak of the criminalization of everyday life. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that reality more than an innocent mom being arrested for standing still on the sidewalk.

PHOTOS: © Charles Meacham Used with permission.

New ‘Beyond Cellblocks’ Webinar: Ending Police-ICE Collaboration

US_Immigration_and_Customs_Enforcement_SWATThroughout the country, local police have been partnering with immigration services, resulting in unfair targeting and treatment of people of color. On Tuesday July 1, join us for an important video discussion about ending collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In addition to educating participants on the police-ICE collaboration and its effects on our communities, we will be discussing strategies to end the collaboration, focusing on how we can build policies at a local level in order to help assemble what we hope to see happen at a national level.

We are excited to showcase three very accomplished and passionate speakers at this webinar: Nicole Brown, field director for the Center for Intercultural Organizing; Alisa Wellek, co-executive director for the Immigrant Defense Project; and Stephen Manning, a partner at Immigrant Law Group PC.

Date:  Tuesday July 1st  2014

Start Time:  11:00 AM PST/2:00 PM EST

To view the video presentation live and participate in the Q&A, register here. This webinar is part of the Beyond Cell Blocks & Border Stops series.

New Video: Case Study of Colorado’s Consent-To-Search Policing Policy

In October 2013, the Alliance for a Just Society partnered with the Union Theological Seminary for a symposium called Cell Blocks and Border Stops: Transformational Activism in the Age of Dehumanization. Since then, the Alliance has been working closely with our affiliate organizations to advance policies that deconstruct systemic structures of criminalization in their local jurisdictions — and we’ve launched this webinar series, as platform for organizers and policymakers to learn from one another and to generate new ideas for local campaigns that can be replicated across the country.

Our last webinar covered Seattle’s LEAD program, a cutting-edge diversion program that uses Medicaid expansion dollars to pay for the chemical dependency or mental health treatment of potential arrestees. This month, we’ve brought together a distinguished panel of speakers to discuss how Colorado passed a law in 2010 requiring police officers to inform people of their constitutional right to consent or refuse a search. Four years later, what’s been the real outcome of the program, and what can other states learn?

This webinar originally aired live on May 28, 2014. Our panelists:

Tania Soto Valenzuela is a community organizer with Colorado Progressive Coalition, a statewide, member-driven organization that engages communities to advance economic and social justice. She has fought alongside survivors of police brutality and misconduct, and with the Racial Justice & Police Accountability Hotline, she’s working to highlight members’ stories to change the culture of silence and violence currently dominating our law enforcement agencies.

Alex Landau is a civil rights activist and a member of Colorado Progressive Coalition. As a survivor of a high-profile case of extreme police violence in Denver, Colorado, he has been instrumental in the re-launching of CPC’s police profiling hotline, and he assists with internal affairs and independent monitoring processes.

Hillary Jorgenson is the Interim Executive Director of Colorado Progressive Coalition. She led the coalition’s work to pass the Affordable Care Act, to expand Medicaid and to protect Medicare. She recently took the position of CPC’s political director.

Art Way is Senior Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance, based in Denver. Way brings substantial public policy and criminal justice reform experience to DPA. And was formally the lead organizer for responsible for the Consent-To-Search campaign.

Our next webinar will be examining the local policies that are being passed to end police and ICE collaboration, on July 1st at 11:00 PT/ 2:00 ET. We hope you will join us again.

Consent to Search: Beyond Cell Blocks Webinar Series Continues

consent to searchIn 2010, after a lengthy fight, Colorado passed a state law that required police officers to inform people of their constitutional right to refuse a search of their person and/or property. The goal of the law was to reduce traffic stops, searches and intimidation stemming from from discrimination.

Law enforcement officers at the time said the legislation threatened their ability to do their jobs. Supporters of the law said it would force police to focus on probable cause and not waste resources on fishing expedition-type searches. The debate drew sharp focus Constitutional protection from unlawful search and seizure and the right to refuse. Read more

“We Say They Can Stay,” Native American Leaders Protest Immigrant Detension

By Simmi Bagri
Alliance for a Just Society

ICE Protest-1cropThe annual Alliance for A Just Society’s Advanced Native Organizers Training, was sponsored by the Praxis Project and hosted at the  Alliance’s office in Seattle this month, drew leaders from tribes and organizations from around the country. They came from as far as Virginia, Alaska, South Dakota, and New Mexico, and as near as Oregon and the Yakima Valley.

They brought with them their history, their culture, and stories of the injustices being faced in their communities. They brought an array of unique perspectives on issues ranging from fighting for food sovereignty to challenging the destruction of native lands through construction of oil pipelines. Read more

Polling Places on Reservations Would Protect Native’s Right to Vote

photo (9)None of us can afford to take the right to vote for granted – as Native Americans living on reservations in Montana can confirm. On the Fort Belknap, Northern Cheyenne, and Crow reservations, Native Americans who want to vote, or even register to vote, have to travel as much as 180 miles over rough, rural roads to reach county election offices.

The distance and the expense are serious barriers to accessing the ballot box.

Mark Wandering Medicine, a Northern Cheyenne, has filed a lawsuit in Montana calling for satellite voting offices on reservations, a step that will remove the hardship and the barriers that Native Americans face trying vote.

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe reservation in southeastern Montana is one of the most isolated. Traveling to Forsyth, the county seat, means having a vehicle, affording gas, then hours on rugged roads.

“We have a tough time of it really, most people just don’t have the means of going all the way over there,” he said. “It is a real hardship to go, and once we arrive there, we are not treated well. We run into a lot of discrimination. Read more

Speaking Up, Sharing Stories to Stop Police Misconduct

Stop profiling picLisa Haynes was waiting for a bus near her home in Portland, Ore., when two police officers passing in a patrol car stopped and began questioning her. Uncertain of what was happening, or why she was being questioned, she turned to walk away. Within moments, Haynes, 4’10”, was forcefully grabbed, pushed to the ground and was handcuffed. One of the officers had his knee in her back as he cursed at her. She was arrested and shoved inside the patrol car.

Police later said they had mistaken the petite, 40-something African American woman, for a 5’6” male, Hispanic suspect they had been pursuing.  They released the handcuffs and told her to go home.

“All along I had been asking the officers why this was happening to me,” said Haynes. “Alas, I knew the answer: it was because I am black.  No other reason. They treated me like this – violated me like this – because I’m black.”
Read more

The Penalty for Being Poor – Prison

By Simmi Bagri
Alliance for a Just Society

Imagine being poor. Then imagine that the depth of your poverty is compounded because you committed a minor infraction. You can’t pay your ticket. You go to court and are put under a probation monitoring service – more fees and fines. You can’t afford bus fare, so you walk everywhere. You can’t afford food, so you go hungry.

Then imagine being put in jail because you can’t pay the fines. Your life has been criminalized, and infrastructure that ought to allow you to you to make amends and move forward, traps you. You can’t escape it. Now you can stop imagining, because that is exactly what is happening across the United States today

Earlier this month the Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Profiting From Probation: America’s Offender-Funded Probation Industry,” which describes a probation model that incentivizes private for-profit companies to prey on low-income misdemeanor offenders.
Read more

Beyond Cellblocks: Reducing Criminalization, Promoting Health Care Access & Racial Justice

This is the first in a series of webinars on ending criminalization of everyday life that will be offered by the Alliance for a Just Society. The Alliance is a national research, policy and organizing network focused on social justice, including ending racial disparity and promoting health equity.

Like many other cities, Seattle has long struggled to address public safety concerns raised by low-level public drug sales, drug use, and prostitution. LEAD was created after Seattle elected officials, public defenders, and community and business groups collectively reached a point of exhaustion, recognizing that status quo of drug law enforcement was failing.

This webinar discusses the origins of LEAD, how it operates, how and when it will be formally evaluated, and prospects for replication in other communities. You can watch both halves in the player below.

RELATED READING: Listen to NPR Seattle’s report on the Seattle Police Department’s new policy. Read more

2014 Advanced Native Organizers Training

The Alliance for a Just Society’s Native Organizing Alliance is pleased to announce our annual Native Organizers Training this spring! Sponsored by the Communities Creating Healthy Environments Initiative, this is a four day intensive workshop on community organizing that covers building and leveraging people-power,76848_10202867522349938_1685908019_n campaign planning, community led policy change; and how to use our stories to win battles.

This workshop focuses on skill building while recognizing the considerations of organizing in Indian Country. Because of historic underfunding in Indian Country, organizing infrastructure is lacking. This training is an opportunity to bolster that infrastructure through relationship building, peer support and coordination with other Natives who are doing community organizing. This workshop prepares organizers for leading a community driven campaign on the issues and concerns that are relevant to Indian Country. Read more