A Muslim woman was tackled, forced to take off her hijab, and strip searched by five police officers as she was climbing the stairs at a Chicago train station on July 4, 2015.
Itemad “Angel” Almatar, who was fasting at the time, was charged with reckless conduct and resisting arrest.
Her story came into light following a court date hearing last Wednesday, which was held one year after the incident.
Almatar said that she was terrified when the five Chicago PD Officers tackled her and grabbed her bags, initially thinking that the officers were thieves.
“They threw me to the stairs, and grabbed my bags. They kicked me, hit me, took off my hijab,” Almatar said. “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 also stated that police grabbed her backpack which had food for her to be able end her fast, since it was the month of Ramadan, a whole month in which Muslims dedicate to worship and abstaining from food and drink.
“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 Chicago.
In court, the prosecutors claimed that the officers had initially yelled “Stop!” although a video of the incident shows neither Almatar nor any other commuters responding to possible commotion.
The county judge eventually found her not guilty and her attorneys said instead that the officers were guilty of profiling and violating her rights.
“We know a couple things. There’s a Constitution, and the Constitution says you can’t just grab people for no reason whatsoever,” Aaron Goldstein, a supervising attorney at the Cook County Public Defender’s office, said.
Itemad’s experience was despondent and humiliating. And it is unforgivable that five police officers, whose sole career is built on the platform of protecting the innocent, upholding the laws and regulations of the land, and to carry out their job with a just hand, did exactly the opposite. They completely ignored and violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which authorizes police officers to only be able to arrest on “probable cause”.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
However, it should be noted that probable cause needs to be based on facts, and legitimate evidence, not just a bunch of impressions and suspicions. And certainly much more than just a woman carrying a backpack, and wearing a scarf on her head.
It is a frightening notion to think that American civilians are no longer safe from anyone, not even law enforcement, those who are sworn to protect and defend the innocent. And it should be noted that if one individual’s rights can be violated, then no one is safe.
As of now, near future plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit are underway.
Co-written by Muslim Girl Staff Writer Feena Qazi.