(WASHINGTON, D.C., 8/29/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate an incident in which police in St. Paul, Minn., taser and arrest an African-American man who believed he was sitting in a public space.
A video of the incident taken by the man's cell phone shows his interaction with St. Paul police officers who demanded he identify himself as he waited to pick up his children from day care. The man told the officers: “Why do I have to let you know who I am? I don't have to let you know who I am if I haven't broken any laws.” When a female officer says, “The problem was…,” the man replied, “The problem is I'm black.”
In a statement, the St. Paul Police DepartmentÂ justified the officers' actions by claiming that he was in a private area and that the man “pulled away and resisted officers' lawful orders” and they “used the force necessary to safely take him into custody.”
Charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process were dismissed July 31. The incident occurred in January of this year, but the man did not have access to the video until recently when his cell phone was returned by police.
Video: St. Paul Cops Allegedly Taser and Arrest Black Male for Sitting in Public Space
St. Paul Police Defend Skyway Arrest; Charges Dismissed (Pioneer Press)
YouTube Video Raises Concerns About St. Paul Police Use of Taser on Man Waiting in Skyway (Star Tribune)
“We believe this disturbing incident would not have unfolded as it did had the individual in question been white,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “The Department of Justice should investigate this case just as it is investigating the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri and other cases of allegedly racially-motivated police brutality.”
CAIR recently joined the NAACP and other civil rights groups in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
CAIR's National Executive Director Nihad Awad attended Brown's funeral this week, and CAIR representatives took part in national American Muslim call-in discussions of the case.
CAIR also joined almost 100 national civil rights groups, coordinated by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in calling for federal action to prevent discriminatory profiling.
Previously, CAIR's St. Louis chapter called for a federal probe of the shooting and CAIR called on Muslim prayer leaders nationwide to devote their Friday sermons to the issues of racial equality and social justice.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com; CAIR-MN Civil Rights Attorney Ellen Longfellow, 612-206-3360, firstname.lastname@example.org