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Police use racial profiling at "ground zero"
Arrogance of the NYPD

January 11, 2002 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

Despite politicians' talk of "unity and compassion" in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster, the New York Police Department hasn't skipped a beat in its campaign of racial profiling and abuse of power.

In mid-October, New York's "finest" arrested three Pakistani men simply for being too close to "ground zero." The men had been hired to clean the outside of the Chase Manhattan Bank, which was covered in debris from the September 11 disaster.

The men arrived at the site with their work clothes, equipment and scaffolding. Showing their true colors, New York police arrested the men and confiscated all of their equipment--despite the fact that the men had a legitimate reason for being at the site.

At an arraignment, a judge set bail at $10,000--a ridiculous amount for a trespassing charge. The case dragged on for a month, while the prosecution "shared" all of the defendants' personal information with the FBI.

"Their attitude was basically, 'We think they were up to no good, we'd like to hold on to them for a while, squeeze them and see what comes up,'" Steve Wasserman, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, who represented the three men, told me. In the meantime, the three men were unable to find work because their equipment was gone.

The District Attorney eventually admitted that he had no case, and the charges were dismissed. "They were very upset," Wasserman said. "They said they are going home to Pakistan. Because of September 11, I think we are going to see that the authorities will be a lot more brazen in saying that public safety and public order will take precedent over all else."

It seems that arrogance is one thing that the New York police and justice system didn't lose in this disaster.

Lucy Herschel, New York City

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