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Congresswoman Clarke’s Speech on Ending Racial and Religious Profiling

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke delivered the following remarks at a Congressional briefing on “Ending Racial and Religious Profiling: Obstacles and Opportunities,” held today by the National Network for Arab American Communities.

Congresswoman Clarke has worked to eliminate racial profiling, by agencies of the federal government and in New York City, for example, criticizing the New York Police Department’s policy of infiltrating Muslim organizations without any suspicion that a crime had been committed and the policy of Stop-and-Frisk under which the privacy of millions of African-Americans and Latinos was violated without any legal basis.

“I would like to thank the National Network for Arab American Communities and South Asian Americans Leading Together for holding this briefing and it is my pleasure to join my colleagues on speaking on this very important issue.  This is important to us because the problem we are talking about – ending racial and religious profiling –continues to threaten our communities and violate our civil rights.

“A report by the New York Civil Liberties Union revealed that innocent New Yorkers were stopped by police and interrogated on the street more than four million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly 9 out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s reports.

“In my New York District, under the guise of crime prevention, the Police Department has conducted investigations on multiple mosques, dozens of Islamic schools, Muslim student organizations, non-profit organizations, ‘persons of interest’ and locations they labelled as ‘ethnic hotspots’.

“Our Constitution establishes that individuals are presumed innocent. The practice of conducting searches of young African-American and Latino men on the sidewalk, and the warrantless surveillance of Muslims gathered for study in schools and prayer in mosques, undermines our civil society’s moral commitment to the personal privacy and dignity of each person.

“While we have taken certain steps recently to curtail these programs, it is unfortunate that today we fear those trusted to serve and protect us. We worry that our children will be harassed on their way to school, coming home from a basketball game, riding the train, going to the corner store or even standing outside of their homes. Young people of color are under threat; continuously fearful that they will be searched next, or that an officer will demand proof of ID and innocence whenever they desire, regardless of the circumstances.

“It is akin to living under apartheid South Africa. It is a national embarrassment. We most certainly have to address the issue of crime prevention in NY and in cities around the nation, but profiling, criminalizing and creating further distrust between police and the community profiling is by no means the answer. We must continue to speak out, and I will continue to push to garner more resources for activists and leaders who are fighting to put an end to discriminatory practices such as racial and religious profiling.”

U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. She represents many neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn, NY which include Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Gerritsen Beach, Madison, Midwood, parts of Park Slope and Flatlands, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Sheepshead Bay, and Windsor Terrace.