The United States is seen as an iconic symbol of human rights and freedom. Though this is true in many regards this nation still falls short of enforcing these rights at all times. Also Read - Unarmed Black man Dies of Suffocation After New York Police Pin Him Down, Put a Spit Hood on His Head
On July 19, 2014, Chaumtoli Huq, a human rights attorney, was wrongfully arrested on a sidewalk in the middle of Times Square in New York City. She was charged for blocking the sidewalk, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. This was after she and her family had attended a rally in support of Gaza. After the charges were dropped, Huq filed a case against the NYPD for wrongful arrest. By doing this, she wanted to bring attention to the often ignored subject of minorities and policing, a topic that has become extremely important within the past year. Also Read - Shocking Police Brutality! Uttarakhand Cops Stab Key Into Man's Forehead For Not Wearing Helmet | Watch
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One year later, Huq describes the aggressive nature of her arrest. She said the photos did, in fact, accurately depict the inappropriate behavior performed by the police.
She elaborated and said during the moment of her arrest, she felt unaware of her emotions at the time, she added that this was mainly due to the fact that her entire experience during the arrest had been so quick and surreal.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but the symptoms I was experiencing, after the arrest, of anxiety, sleep depravity, and protective [feelings] of the space around me, were all symptoms of sexual assault,” Huq said.
However, once she managed to interpret it and become aware of the NYPD’s poor conduct, she was obligated to speak out because of something her mother said to her:
“If one person really takes the step, it gives permission to others to also come forward.”
Huq eventually teamed up with an attorney who specializes in police brutality cases. She came forward courageously and made herself an example for how race, religion, and gender play a role in an arrest of this type, she wanted to bring attention to the reality many women are faced with when arrested by male officers, which, in her case, was extremely aggressive and inappropriate behavior.
Luckily, for Huq, during the course of the trial and throughout the public aftermath of the arrest, her lawyer and family remained steadfast as her source of inspiration to keep moving forward with her plight.
“What I did have [was] access to people I can call, I needed a lawyer to help me and was able to find one,” she said. “We need to create this for people, a safety net type of infrastructure so people can feel courageous. This is what makes my clients feel safe. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, they need someone beside them. It’s the ability to sympathize with the concern, am I going to be alone hanging on the ledge, or is someone going to be beside me? I’ve seen this in my own work.”
Because of this, she wanted to ensure that everyone, who experiences police brutality, can have an equally effective support system.
“When you speak, the system responds back very strongly, we need to give people the armor to speak,” Huq said. “Social change happens because we are placed in uncomfortable situations that catalyze us forward.”
With that thought, she began to advocate for change within law enforcement education and demanded that New York City offer gender sensitivity training to police officers, which she believes to be the first step in better understanding and enforcing human rights.
Police departments across the nation have received an extensive amount of backlash for their violent and aggressive behavior. These intolerable acts have led to movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, protests and rallies in New York, Washington D.C., and Ferguson, MO, among other locations.
Huq said military force is an external operation and the police force is internal, however, there is also a third dimension to these forces where there is a “blurring of both, increased militarization, [and a] culture of fear after 9/11–terrorism that have made people give up a lot of their rights. These historical shifts are fueling this fear. You’re cracking down on open container violations, jumping turnstile violations, fines, etc, which are taking up jail space, yet shootings are still happening. There is this bizarre relationship where people are afraid for their safety, but there is no gun control. There is policy schizophrenia, mismatched to where fear resides. Our policy is falling short.”
It is a tragedy that despite the evident need for reformation of police training, the city fails to acknowledge and bridge this gap, their failure to do so was made clear when they later rejected Huq’s idea of gender sensitivity training among law enforcement.
With the rejection, many officers are losing the chance to learn how to better deal with a number of diverse circumstances such as domestic violence survivors, (situations where aggressive behavior can wrongfully impact people psychologically), working with community organizations and leaders, and being culturally aware to the assorted population, which can lead to better interactions between the police and civilians.
Though Huq’s initial case against the NYPD was settled without this improvement, the fight is long from over. Police brutality, aggressiveness, and gender insensitivity is not limited to any one specific person or area. Huq, like many others, earnestly believes in the reformation of police training. Therefore, she refuses to let this loss deter her from her goal.
“I am working to put a panel together on gender and policing, pushing for a town hall meeting, asking the mayor to host it on police reform,” Huq said. “However it is a challenge, some are afraid to be direct [and some] people are afraid of being vocal. I am working with the Hear Us Campaign, [where] people who are impacted are able to voice their experiences and explain what has happened to them in a forum. We have reached out to community organizations to support a call for a town hall meeting. This is basic Democracy 101, this isn’t asking for much, we’re just asking for a conversation. It is restorative justice to bring the victim and offender together instead of polarizing the communities.”