. January 2015 Muslim and Jewish Coalitions Raise Concerns Over NYPD’s New Anti-Terror Unit

In late January 2015 MACLC and its allies successfully contested an NYPD announcement that troublingly conflated counter terror and crowd control functions. The media picked up the story(for example, here, in the Intercept report and by February 3, 2015. Commissioner Bratton issued a much needed (and welcome) “Clarification” (see: New York Times)
Muslim and Jewish Coalitions Raise Concerns Over NYPD’s New Anti-Terror Unit
(January 30th, 2015 – New York, NY) Yesterday, the New York Police Department unveiled plans for a new counterterrorism unit, dubbed the “Strategic Response Group,” to handle anti-terrorist duties as well as large-scale demonstrations. The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC) and Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition (JAIC) are deeply concerned about this news. With the relationship already strained between communities of color and the NYPD, Commissioner Bratton has elected to further militarize the Department’s approach to civil protests and grow the ranks of the City’s controversial counterterrorism bureau. The new 350-member unit will be specially trained in high-tech weaponry to deal with protests, “lone wolf”
attacks, and evolving threats posed by terrorists – as if all three require the same response.Just a week ago, Commissioner Bratton met with Muslim leaders from across the city in the wake of the Paris attack emphasizing the importance of police-community relations to keep our city safe. The Strategic Response Group will not achieve this goal. On the contrary, it will exacerbate existing concerns and heighten the level of mistrust of police among communities of color, including American Muslims.
The unmistakable impression is that peaceful protests seeking police accountability are somehow a threat to the City on par with the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and Paris. Equating civil protests with acts of terrorist violence is tone deaf and ill-advised. It is an invitation for police to violate the First Amendment rights of New Yorkers.”With this Strategic Response Group, the NYPD is sending a message that not only reaffirms the increasing militarization and use of excessive force by the police, but also attempts to silence any voices of dissent and peaceful protests with intimidation through the presence of heavily armed officers.
As communities that have already been targeted by discriminatory police practices, as Muslims or as protesters, we question how this new response rebuilds or improves community relations,” said Fahd Ahmed Acting Director of DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center and member of MACLC.”It is so self-evident that cops with machine guns would not have prevented the attacks in Paris that the NYPD proposal can only be seen as a pretext for an increasingly militarized police force. If Ferguson taught us anything, that is the last thing that New York — or any other city, for that matter — needs.
As New Yorkers and as Jews, we strongly believe that cops with body armor and machine guns cannot co-exist with the right to peaceful protest, and will not keep our city safer,” said Marjorie Dove Kent of Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition and director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.Rather than treat the protests like a threat to national security, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton should prioritize responding to the actual demands of those communities, reassess these tactics, and find productive and sensible ways to make New York City safe.
Linda Sarsour
Senior StrategistThe Campaign to Take on Hate
(c) 917.306.3323
Published on February 4, 2015 at 4:40 am  Leave a Comment  

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