CHICAGO— A Muslim woman was running to catch a train in Chicago when five police officers tackled her, ripped off her hijab and strip searched her.
Itemad “Angel” Almatar said she faced humiliation at the hands of police before being arrested for no reason. She was carrying a backpack with food in it to break fast.
Surveillance camera video showed her overtaken by five Chicago police officers as she climbed the stairs of the State/Lake station in the Loop.
“They threw me to the stairs, and grabbed my bags. They kicked me, hit me, took off my hijab,” she said.
They also had an issue with her putting food inside her bag.
“They asked me why I put my food inside my bag, why I’m Muslim, why I’m fasting, why I’m wearing these clothes, why I cover my body,” she said.
Almatar said she was terrified.
She thought the people who grabbed her might be thieves, until they arrested her.
“She was strip searched, videographed, and at the same time men were allowed to see her naked. This is the ultimate horror you can do to a Muslim woman,” said Imam Malick Mujahid, a Muslim community leader in Chicago.
Almatar was charged with reckless conduct and resisting arrest, but on Wednesday a Cook County judge found her not guilty. Her attorneys said the police officers are guilty of profiling and violating her rights, perhaps in the name of vigilance.
“We know a couple things. There’s a Constitution, and the Constitution says you can’t just grab people for no reason whatsoever,” said Aaron Goldstein, a supervising attorney with the Cook County Public Defender’s office
In court, prosecutors said police officers first yelled ‘Stop!’ but the video of the incident shows no one turning around in response, even though several other commuters were walking up the stairs with Almatar.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department said he would look into the incident and what, if any, action was taken internally.
Almatar said she plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit soon.