SAN FRANCISCO – The Asian Law Caucus, a member of the Coalition for a Safe San Francisco, commends the San Francisco Human Rights Commission on the passage of its historic report and recommendations to end racial and religious profiling of SF Bay Area Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities.
At last week’s hearing, by unanimous vote, the Commission officially adopted its report, “Community Concerns of Surveillance, Racial and Religious Profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities and Potential Reactivation of SFPD Intelligence Gathering.” This report was based on a groundbreaking hearing at the Commission last September where scores of AMEMSA community members bravely gave testimony on their personal experiences being harassed, profiled, and surveilled by local and federal law enforcement.
“The hearing and subsequent report was prompted by community concerns and the former SFPD Police Chief Gascon’s comments last year,” explained Summer Hararah, Program Coordinator of the National Security & Civil Rights Program at the Asian Law Caucus. “Former Chief Gascon publicly painted Muslim & Middle Eastern communities as inherent terrorist threats because of their national origin & religious identity. This really mobilized the community and the HRC to investigate a presence and culture of discrimination in the ranks of our own law enforcement here in San Francisco.”
The adoption of this report is rendered all the more timely by the announcement that the ACLU of Southern California and CAIR-LA have filed a major federal class action lawsuit against the FBI for illegal surveillance of the Muslim community in Southern California. The complaint and the informant involved in the operation allege that a local Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a partnership between local or state law enforcement and the FBI, illegally targeted innocent Muslim Americans for intrusive and demeaning surveillance and investigations based solely on First-Amendment protected activity, rather than any suspicion of wrongdoing or criminality.
Frighteningly, a similar JTTF exists here in the Bay Area, which includes participation from the San Francisco Police Department, the Oakland Police Department, and other agencies. Given the huge turnout at the September hearing, and the scores of testimony from impacted community members, there is a very real fear that what has happened in Southern California could also be happening here in the Bay.
“ALC commends the Commission for taking these steps, and we hope that others in San Francisco – particularly SFPD – will take note,” said Veena Dubal, Staff Attorney at the Asian Law Caucus. “The Coalition and the ACLU-NC have been dealing directly with the SFPD to find out more about their relationship with the FBI, but we have faced a lack of transparency. This report’s recommendations are the first step in the right direction.”
Both the HRC and the broader community acknowledge that although this is a momentous moment and key victory, it is the first step of a longer process. To create a San Francisco where human rights are respected and where everyone is safe from profiling and discrimination, city officials, community members, and law enforcement agencies must work together.
As a next step the HRC and community plan to take the report and recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for endorsement and to form a diverse taskforce to work on implementing the adopted recommendations.