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Raza v. City of New York (Challenging the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program)

E.D.N.Y. (direct) This lawsuit, filed on June 18, 2013, charges that the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program has imposed an unjustified badge of suspicion and stigma on hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers. It was filed on June18, 2013 by New York City residents represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project of Main Street Legal Services, Inc. at CUNY School of Law. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of religious and community leaders, mosques and a charitable organization that were all swept up in the NYPD’s dragnet surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers. These individuals and organizations seek systemic reforms that will end the NYPD’s spying program in which entire communities of New Yorkers have been singled out simply because of their religious beliefs. The City of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen are listed as defendants. The lawsuit argues that the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of religion and guarantee of neutrality toward all religions, and the New York State Constitution. As documented extensively by the NYPD’s own records, its Intelligence Division has built a program dedicated to the total suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in the greater New York City area. Officers and informants routinely monitor restaurants, bookstores and mosques and create records of innocent conversations. The Department also sends paid infiltrators into mosques, student associations and beyond to take photos, write down license plate numbers and keep notes on people for no reason other than because they are Muslim. An NYPD official admitted that the mapping activities have not generated a single lead or resulted in even one terrorism investigation. The lawsuit asks the court to end the NYPD’s Muslim Surveillance Program, and to prevent future surveillance based solely or predominantly on religion in the absence of individualized suspicion of criminal activity. It also seeks to expunge the records of all of the plaintiffs that were created because of the program, and to appoint a monitor to ensure that New York City truly ends all of the unconstitutional practices inherent in its religious profiling practices. Attorneys on the case are Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project; Ramzi Kassem, supervising attorney at CLEAR and associate professor of law at CUNY; NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg; Nusrat Jahan Choudhury and Patrick Toomey of the ACLU; Diala Shamas of CLEAR; and Mariko Hirose of the NYCLU. Profiles of the plaintiffs are available on the ACLU’s website. View the Notice of Fairness Hearing (PDF).

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