A Muslim woman has filed a lawsuit against Police Chief Robert Luna and the city of Long Beach, alleging that an officer forcibly removed her religious headcovering while she was handcuffed after an arrest on an outstanding warrant.
Press Telegram Designated Terrorist Group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) filed the lawsuit today in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of Kirsty Powell, who alleges that the incident occurred May 5, 2015 at the Long Beach police station.
According to CAIR, Powell and her husband, Deshawn Smith, who are both African American, were driving home near Market Street and Long Beach Boulevard when they were pulled over by an officer with the Long Beach Police Department.
Powell was arrested on suspicion of having an outstanding warrant, and during the arrest she was told by the officers that she would have to remove her headbag/hijab, according to CAIR, which says Powell made several requests for a female officer to search her.
The political pressure group says officers informed Powell that she was “not allowed to wear her hijab” and that they were “allowed to touch a woman.” While handcuffed at the police station, the arresting officer forcibly removed Powell’s head covering and forced her to remain exposed overnight, in plain view of other male officers and dozens of inmates, the suit alleges.
At least four female officers were at the station and available to remove Powell’s hijab, which she repeatedly requested, Satar said. One female officer escorted Powell to a holding cell, after her headscarf had been removed, Satar said. “It’s usually done in private, having them remove it, patting it down so there’s no kind of weapon in there or contraband,” Satar said. “Initially, the request was made at the intersection.”
Satar said Powell had three warrants against her, but two were of mistaken identity, as Powell’s sister “had a run-in with police” and allegedly used Powell’s name. According to Satar, the other warrant was for petty theft in 2002.
In a CAIR-issued news release, Powell said the experience was horrible, and she wouldn’t want anyone else to go through it. “I want my Muslim sisters to always feel comfortable and safe wearing a hijab and to stand up for what’s right,” she said.