Muslim woman sues Chicago, police, alleging excessive force, false arrest

Source: Chicago Tribune

By Marion Renault

A woman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday against the city of Chicago and six of its police officers after she said the officers profiled her based on her religious garb and assaulted her outside a CTA train station last year.

On July Fourth, Itemid Al-Matar, who was observing Ramadan, was trying to catch the train home so she could break fast at sunset. As she was walking up the stairs to the CTA “L” stop at State and Lake streets, police officers grabbed her, unprovoked, and threw her down on the landing, the suit alleges.

According to court records, Al-Matar, 32, moved to Chicago from Saudi Arabia two years ago to study English.

A CTA surveillance video shows Al-Matar climbing the stairs alone toward the platform when a group of five officers approaches her from behind. One of the officers grabs her by the shoulder and brings her to the ground, where the police huddle around her and appear to search her.

At a news conference Thursday, Al-Matar’s attorney, Gregory Kulis, claimed police ripped off her religious headwear, a hijab and niqab. He said they exposed her midriff while she was handcuffed on the ground.

Al-Matar was arrested and charged with reckless conduct and several counts of obstructing justice. In June, a Cook County judge dismissed the first charge and found Al-Matar not guilty of the other counts.

“If they felt that there was some concern, the initial approach would be like every one of us on the street: ‘Excuse me, sir, excuse me, ma’am, can I just ask you a question — what’s your name and where are you going?'” Kulis said.

A Chicago police spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

The suit cites Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s acknowledgment in December of a prevailing “code of silence” among police and claims the department’s failing to investigate and discipline officers is a contributing factor in Al-Matar’s incident.

Kulis said the police incident report included information that somebody indicated she was a “lone wolf suicide bomber.”

“It’s unfortunate that in Chicago this incident reflects ingrained prejudice that some people still have,” Kulis said.

He said he expects police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to hold the officers involved accountable.

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