Amnesty International USA holds
hearings on racial profiling
Amnesty International USA, on September 9, launched a national series of public hearings on racial profiling in US law enforcement with two hearings in San Francisco and Oakland. The Congressional-style hearings were chaired by the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis, former judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ms. Samina Faheem Executive Director, of the American Msulim Voice, was one of the panelists at the Amnesty International USA hearings at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland. She said that the Muslim and Arab communities have become victims of racial profiling after 9/11 which has caused havoc in the communities.
She added that biased government policies are alienating the Muslim and Arab communities.
Other panelists were: Bill Shulz, Executive Director of the AIUSA; Niaz Kasravi, Researcher, AIUSA’s Domestic Human Rights Program (Washington); Cosette Thompson, AIUSA Western Region Director; Dan Siegel; and Founder of Oakland-based Siegel & Yee Law Firm and Julianne Cartwright Traylor, Political scientist.
(Picture shows Honorable Timothy K. Lewis, former judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (left) and Ms. Samina Faheem, Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice at the Amnesty International USA hearings in Oakland on racial profiling.)
Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of the AIUSA said that the serious problem of racial profiling is so common that it has gained a nickname in popular vernacular: “driving while black.” But since 9/11, racial profiling could be re-dubbed much more broadly: “traveling while South Asian,” “studying while Middle Easter,” or “shopping while Muslim.” He said that the testimonies gathered at these hearings will be included in a report on the Amnesty International USA annual report to be issued early next year.
To highlight the racial profiling issue, Ms. Farah Barelvi, Vice Chair Board of Directors of AIUSA, quoted the Civil Rights project at Harvard: “The danger in a time of high emotion is that we attribute deeds of individuals to an entire ethnic groups or religion, as has been done in the past….Let us remember that when American freedom is threatened, the protection of that freedom is ultimately the responsibility of everyone.”
“Californians must continue to be diligent in the struggle to end racial profiling, particularly in the post 9/11 political climate,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, Director of AIUSA’ s Domestic Human Rights Program. “Amnesty International is holding these hearings to gather perspectives, thoughts, and experiences from communities across America so that we can advocate policy recommendations that will safeguard the civil rights of all citizens, end racial discrimination and empower law enforcement to be both effective and fair for all our communities.”
Oakland and San Francisco hearings focused on the practice of racial profiling as it affects a range of ethnic minorities in the US. Special attention was paid to practices employed in the "War on Drugs" and "War on Terror". The testimony was divided into three sections: racial profiling at the local level, the federal level, and by airport security. AI invited victims/victim advocates, national experts, and law enforcement to testify during each section.
The witnesses includes: Jack Glaser, Assistant Professor US Berkeley; John Burris, Oakland Civil Rights Attorney; Venus noble, African American social worker; Rasheeda Askey and JR Vlrey, African American journalists; Irum Sheikh, Researcher, US Berkeley; Dalia Hashad, ACLU, New York; Milton Reynolds, African American community advocate and Dr. Ghannam, Palestinian Professor of Psychiatry at University of California San Francisco. Dr. Ghannam is a victim of multiple airport arrests. Edward Elaydi, a US citizen, was another witness for airport arrest and harassment.