NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A group of law students rallied against the tactics of the NYPD’s secret surveillance program of Muslims on Saturday, calling it racist and unjustified.
Dozens of protesters with the Fordham Law Muslim Students Association picketed outside a university alumni association luncheon at Cipriani’s on Wall Street to make their voices heard.
“It’s wrong to profile a specific race or a specific religion or a specific group of people for the acts of a few,” said one demonstrator. “That’s not the way to go about saving the country from terrorism.”
“It’s a violation of my civil rights, it’s a violation of every single New Yorker’s civil rights,” said another.
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Chanting ”No justice, no peace! No racist police!” and waving signs, the protesters called for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to step down. Kelly was appearing at the luncheon as a guest speaker.
“We know that while the vast majority of Muslim student associations and their members are law-abiding, we have seen too many cases in which such groups were exploited,” he said.
“He should be forced to resign if there’s public outcry,” said one woman.
“What I want to see is the NYPD protecting us, not profiling us,” said another.
Princeton native and Roosevelt Island resident Muhammad Ali Naquvi joined the protesters because he feels this is their civil rights movement.
“Martin Luther King said that progress doesn’t come without struggle and this is our struggle,” he said. “We’re getting together with people who have been a part of this sort of brutality for decades and we are just experiencing it and it makes us feel empathetic for our fellow Americans who have been a part of this and it’s time for it to stop.”
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Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Muslim leaders, state and federal officials discussed the Garden State’s response to the NYPD’s program. They met with state and federal law enforcement officials for nearly three hours in Trenton, saying they hope the state attorney general will announce a formal investigation into the matter.
Aref Assaf, the head of the Paterson-based American Arab Forum says he hopes the meeting will go beyond merely discussing relationships between Muslim residents and law enforcement in New Jersey, which traditionally have been positive.
The NYPD’s surveillance of New Jersey’s Muslim community has generated a firestorm of controversy. Gov. Chris Christie blasted Commissioner Kelly and the NYPD for behavior he suggests is arrogant, paranoid and dangerous. Newark Mayor Cory Booker has also spoken out against the program.
“This is the New York Police Department. I know they think their jurisdiction is the world, their jurisdiction is New York City,” Christie said earlier this week.
A report released last month shows the NYPD kept tabs on Muslim businesses and mosques in New Jersey and on Long Island.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the surveillance is justified.
“To say that the NYPD should stop at the borders is a bit ridiculous,” Bloomberg said Friday. “We have to be right every single day, we have to be perfect and the terrorists only have to be right once.”
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, also supports the surveillance and lashed out at Christie on WCBS 880 on Friday.
“I don’t know what Gov. Christie is talking about. Back in 2007 and 2008 when the initial foray was for the NYPD into Newark, he wasn’t even the governor then and as far as him being U.S. attorney again, it’s up to the police department in Newark to tell him what it wanted to,” King said. “The NYPD did what it was supposed to do.”
Booker said on Thursday that since learning of the NYPD’s efforts to monitor the community, some Muslims in the city had become afraid to pray in mosques.
And while politicians have their war of words, the spying has outraged Muslim residents in New Jersey.
“The sad part is that Bloomberg is totally condoning the idea of spying on innocent people,” said Mohammed Elfiali of the Islamic Center of Passaic County. “It’s outrageous.”
“It alienates us as Americans. We have to look over our shoulder, we have to say we’re Muslims and yet we’re helping law enforcement and we’re trying to do all these things and yet here again is another example of betrayal,” said Nadia Kahf from CAIR, New Jersey. “We don’t know how far reaching it is and that is one of the reasons we’re asking for the investigation.”
“It is nothing concrete, nothing specific. Like I said, they are understanding and there are promises for getting to the bottom of it and for me that is more than enough,” said Mohamed Younes, president of the American Muslim Union.
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