August 11, 2016 CBS reports:
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Muslim woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, accusing police of racially profiling her last year, when officers tackled her and arrested her as she was walking up the stairs to an ‘L’ station in the Loop.
Itemad “Angel” Al Matar, a student from Saudi Arabia living in Chicago, said he was running to catch the train on the 4th of July last year so she could go home and break her Ramadan fast. She was walking up the steps to the State/Lake station in the Loop when a group of five officers knocked her down from behind, grabbed her bags, hit her, kicked her, and ripped off her hijab. She said the humiliation didn’t end there.
“They asked me why I put my food inside my bag, why I’m Muslim, why I’m fasting, why I’m wearing these clothes, why I cover my body,” she told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov in June.
The incident was recorded by CTA surveillance cameras.
“One of the police reports indicated that somebody believed she was – and I’ll quote the police report, ‘a lone wolf suicide bomber,’” said her attorney, Gregory Kulis. “That reflects the insensitivity of some Chicago police officers.”
On Thursday, Al Matar filed a federal lawsuit against the city and six police officers, accusing the police of excessive force, unlawful search, false arrest, violation of religious freedoms, and malicious prosecution.
“It’s unfortunate that in Chicago this incident reflects the ingrained prejudice that some people still have. It reflects that some Chicago police officers still have certain prejudices against Muslims, and it shows the lack of training and sensitivity training that police officers need,” Kulis said.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said police laughed and snickered at Al Matar as they were arresting her, and called her a terrorist.
“All of these things raise plenty of concerns about these particular members of the police force, and what they think they can do with impunity versus what we want in our city: protection for citizens, protection for civil rights,” he said. “This is not just about upholding civil rights laws. It is about common sense, about public etiquette, and about the oath that we are told the police everywhere swear an allegiance to.”
According to the lawsuit, Al Matar was strip-searched and photographed after she was arrested. Rehab said she suffered several bruises, and was unable to eat for a day, after she already had been fasting for Ramadan.
“To cover up those actions by the Chicago police, they put false charges on her,” Kulis said.
Al Matar was charged with reckless conduct and resisting arrest, but a Cook County judge found her not guilty of all charges in June.
Prosecutors said police officers first yelled ‘stop!’ as they approached Al Matar, but the video of the incident shows no one turning around in response, even though several other commuters were walking up the stairs with Almatar.
According to the police report from Al Matar’s arrest, officers were on high alert because it was July 4th, and when they saw her with her head and face covered, and carrying a backpack, they called out to her, but she ignored them.
The report also said officers were suspicious of “bulging objects strapped around her ankles,” which turned out to be ankle weights.
Al Matar’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the city. Kulis said the individual officers also should face discipline, but he declined to say how severe it should be.
“I’ll leave that up to the superintendent of the police. We have a new superintendent of the police who I think has been somewhat proactive. I think that it brings to the forefront the attention that the Chicago Police Department needs some sensitivity training,” Kulis said. “Should they be suspended? That’s up to the superintendent.”
Police would not comment on the specifics of the case.
“While CPD does not comment on pending or proposed litigation our officers work hard each day to investigate suspicious activity and fight crime. We strive to treat all individuals with the highest levels of dignity and respect,” a spokesperson says.”