Chaumtoli Huq was waiting outside the Ruby Tuesday's in Times Square for her husband and children to use the restroom when she was arrested by police. Huq claims she was targeted by police for being Muslim and South Asian; when she was arrested, she had just come from a pro-Palestinian rally and was dressed in a traditional Indian tunic and pants.
Huq, a human rights lawyer and former general counsel to New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD claiming police used "unreasonable and wholly unprovoked force" when they arrested her this past July outside of the restaurant at 41st Street and Seventh Avenue.
While waiting on the sidewalk, Huq told DNAInfo she was approached by Officer Ryan Lathrop and another officer, who demanded she leave. Huq told officers, "I'm not in anybody's way. Why do I have to move? What's the problem?" and that there was room for others to walk between the restaurant and protesters filed along Seventh Avenue. That's when police allegedly pinned her against the wall.
"At that point I didn't know what was happening. I was just thinking, 'What's going on?' and all of a sudden the officer flips me [around]…he [turns] my body and presses me against the wall of the restaurant," Huq told DNAInfo. "He shoved my left arm all the way and kept pushing it and handcuffed me. At that point I just like instinctively yelled, 'Help!' because I was alone. I screamed, 'Help!'"
According to the suit, the New York Daily News reports, when Huq told officers that she was in pain, Officer Lahtrop allegedly told her, "shut your mouth."
When her husband and children finally caught up with her at the Midtown South Precinct, officers apparently offered to take Huq's purse to her husband, but allegedly became "suspicious" when she told officers that she had a different last name than her husband. "In America, wives take the names of their husbands," she claims police told her.
She was held for more than nine hours in lockup before being arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, court records show.
She said she agreed to have the case adjourned and not get arrested again within the next six months in exchange for a dismissal.
Through her lawyer, Huq told the Daily News that she accepted the plea deal because her trip to her native Bangladesh to work on factory conditions in the country made fighting the charges in court (which could take some time) "impossible."
In her suit, she describes her arrest as "characteristic of a pattern and practice of the NYPD in aggressive overpolicing of people of color and persons lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights." From the Daily News:
Huq's suit blames the officers' conduct on "city policies, practices and/or customs of failing to supervise, train, instruct and discipline police officers and encouraging their misconduct." It also says the department has a "practice or custom of officers lying under oath, falsely swearing out criminal complaints, or otherwise falsifying or fabricating evidence."
"I was hesitant to bring a case. My job is to be behind the scenes, and help all New Yorkers," Huq told the Daily News. She went on to tell the paper that she decided to move forward with the suit, saying, "I can use what happened to me to raise awareness about overpolicing in communities of color. I want there to be a dialogue on policing and community relations."
[Image via Law at the Margins]