Officers violated my civil rights by pulling off my religious garb when they detained me on subway station stairs, they strip-searched me at a police station, said Itemid Al-Matar in a federal lawsuit filed in Chicago on her behalf.
“Several (officers) ran up the stairs and grabbed the Plaintiff and threw her down upon the stair landing, then pulling at her and ripping off her hijab,” it says.
The fact that Al-Matar was wearing a headscarf, known as a hijab, and the face veil, called a niqab, “was the impetus behind the actions” of the officers, the court filing alleges.
In a statement on Thursday, Phil Robertson, a lawyer for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and a co-counsel in the civil case argued that “blatant xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racial profiling” underpinned the officers’ actions.
A police report filed the night of the incident claimed officers had been “on high alert of terrorist activity” on the July 4th holiday when they spotted Al-Matar exhibiting what they believed was “suspicious behaviour,” including walking at “a brisk pace, in a determined manner.”
It also said officers saw what they thought could be “incendiary devices” around her ankles and were also suspicious of her backpack, which was clutched to her chest.
“(Officers) believed that subject might be a lone wolf suicide bomber and decided to attempt to take the subject into custody,” it continued.
A K-9 unit searched for explosive materials, the report said, “with negative results,” while “the objects strapped around arrestee’s ankles” turned out to be “ankle weights.”
Regardless of the explanation, Al-Matar was charged, including with obstructing justice after police accused her of resisting and refusing to comply with orders. She was later acquitted on all charges earlier this year.
Thursday’s lawsuit names six Chicago officers as defendants, accusing them of excessive force, false arrest, violation of freedom of religious expression and malicious prosecution.