July 11, 2014, New York – Last night, dozens of organizations and individuals representing diverse interests and faiths filed amicus briefs in support of a lawsuit challenging the blanket surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey by the New York Police Department (NYPD). Late last week, Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appealed a federal district court’s dismissal of the case, Hassan et al v. City of New York, and demanded that the NYPD stop violating American Muslims’ rights by targeting them for surveillance.
In one brief, law enforcement officials wrote, “Bias-based policing is not only ineffective, it is counterproductive to law enforcement goals. For law enforcement to function effectively, local police must form bonds with the communities they serve. Bias-based policing methods undermine that goal.”
Organizations and individuals that filed amicus briefs include 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, Karen Korematsu, ACLU NJ, MALDEF, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Police Chief Chris Burbank, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Sikh Coalition, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, AALDEF, Latino Justice, National Council of Jewish Women, the Auburn Theological Seminary, DRUM, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, ADC, and New Jersey Muslim Lawyer’s Association.
In another brief, descendants of Japanese Americans who were subject to internment during World War II argued, “The history of the Japanese internment, and the ensuing apologies and atonement of each branch of the United States government, provide twin lessons. First, infringement of rights on the basis of class membership—race in the World War II era, and religion in this case—is not only inherently injurious but can and does produce injury. Second, a proffered military or police exigency, no matter how great, must be subjected to the strictest of scrutiny on the merits rather than accepted at the threshold as the basis for dismissal of an equal protection claim.”
“Plaintiffs were spied on, not because of any criminal suspicion whatsoever, but because of their faith —an indisputably unconstitutional basis for police surveillance,” said CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy. “The district court’s decision effectively allows the City of New York to treat Muslims as second class citizens, and ratifies ugly stereotypes that could upend decades of anti-discrimination law. We hope the Court of Appeals will not let this broad sanction of racial profiling and religious discrimination stand, and we are pleased that so many prominent organizations and individuals are standing with us in the case.”
Judge William Martini had dismissed the case in February, ruling in a 10-page summary opinion, without oral argument, that plaintiffs had not suffered harm and that any harm the plaintiffs might have suffered was not the result of the unlawful surveillance program, but of the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting by the Associated Press that exposed it. The court also endorsed the City’s argument that its targeting of Muslims on the basis of their faith alone was justified in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. In more than ten years of operation, the City’s discriminatory program has failed to unearth a single lead.
“Discriminating against innocent Americans based on their faith is wrong,” said Muslim Advocates Legal Director Glenn Katon. “The NYPD has stripped individuals of the freedom to openly practice their faiths, and we hope that this lawsuit will put an end to the discriminatory policies that stand against some of the most important values that led to America’s founding.”
The Hassan plaintiffs comprise a broad group with diverse backgrounds, and include a decorated Iraq war veteran who currently serves as a US ARMY reservist, Rutgers students, and the former principal of a grade school for Muslim girls.
Since 2002, the NYPD has spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey. The monitoring has included video surveillance, photographing, community mapping, and infiltration. Moreover, internal documents, including a list of 28 “ancestries of interest,” reveal that the NYPD used racial and ethnic backgrounds as proxies to identify and target adherents to the Muslim faith. The NYPD recently disbanded one of the main units through which it conducted the surveillance, but advocates say it is clear that discriminatory policing against Muslims has continued.
Read the appeal filing here.
The full list of organizations and individuals that filed amicus briefs is below.
- Amicus Brief of Americans for Separation of Church and State
- Amicus Brief of the Brennan Center
- Amicus Brief of ACLU-NJ et al
- Amicus Brief of Korematsu et al
- Amicus Brief of Reporters Committee
- Amicus Brief of AALDEF et al
- Amicus Brief of Law Enforcement Organizations
- Amicus Brief of Religious Liberty Groups
Hassan was initially filed by Muslim Advocates. The Center for Constitutional Rights and Gibbons, P.C. have joined as co-counsel.
Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Through high impact lawsuits, policy advocacy, and community education, Muslim Advocates serves as a resource to empower communities and ensures that the American Muslim community is heard by the courts and leaders at the highest level of government. Visit Muslim Advocates at www.muslimadvocates.org and follow @muslimadvocates.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org and follow @theCCR.