Muslims criticize Bloomberg veto of NYPD watchdog

Muslim-American civil rights groups are criticizing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for vetoing a bill on Tuesday (July 23) that would have created an independent inspector general to oversee the New York City Police Department.
The New York City Council passed the bill June 27 as a check against controversial NYPD policies that critics say violate the civil rights of Muslim and other minority New Yorkers. Reports that the NYPD spied on mosques, Muslim businesses, organizations and students began surfacing in 2011.
Critics say the surveillance program has caused many Muslims to stop going to Islamic institutions or speaking out in public, worried it could land them in legal troubles.

House Democrats decry Bloomberg’s ‘underhanded’ response to concerns over NYPD Muslim spying

WASHINGTON — Ten House Democrats, including a member of the party’s leadership and lawmakers who oversee intelligence and homeland security matters, have criticized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his “underhanded and unprofessional” response to criticism of the New York Police Department’s spying programs.

The Associated Press has reported for months that the NYPD systematically spied on Muslims neighborhoods, using informants and undercover officers to serve as “listening posts” in mosques and businesses in New York and New Jersey. Police documented the details of sermons, even when they were innocuous and peaceful, and infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses. NYPD officers catalogued where Muslims ate, eat and prayed — with no mention of criminal activity — and targeted Mosques using techniques typically reserved for criminal investigations.

The lawmakers asked Bloomberg to explain what exactly he knew about the NYPD’s intelligence operations and to explain how federal money was used.

Bloomberg says religion not a factor for NYPD but documents suggest otherwise

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department collected information on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims, according to newly obtained secret documents. They show in the clearest terms yet that police were monitoring people based on religion, despite claims from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the contrary.

The NYPD has faced intense criticism from Muslims, lawmakers — and even the FBI — for widespread spying operations that put entire neighborhoods under surveillance. Police put the names of innocent people in secret files and monitored the mosques, student groups and businesses that make up the Muslim landscape of the northeastern U.S.
Bloomberg has defended his department’s efforts, saying they have kept the city safe, were completely legal and were not based on religion.

Muslim groups, interfaith leaders plan rally in wake of NYPD intel report on surveillance

NEW YORK — Muslim groups and interfaith leaders are holding a rally in the wake of a report about New York Police Department intelligence.

The rally is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, January 3, 2012, at Manhattan’s Foley Square. It will be followed by a march to police headquarters.

A secret police document shows that the NYPD recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Muslims and their mosques based solely on their religion.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the May 2006 NYPD intelligence report on Iran. It says police should expand clandestine operations at Shiite mosques.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the NYPD never considers religion in its policing. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said police only go where investigative leads take them.

NYC councilman calls for creation of inspector general’s office to oversee police department

NEW YORK — A New York City councilman is calling for the creation of an inspector general’s office to oversee the police department.

Two lawyers with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University called Monday for such an office in a New York Times opinion piece. Democratic City Councilman Brad Lander echoed them in an interview with news website Capital and says he’s working to formulate a proposal.

The opinion piece cited a movie shown to police trainees that critics say paints Muslims negatively. It also noted an Associated Press investigation that uncovered police surveillance of Muslims.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the city won’t turn over control of the police department to an outside entity.

Ray Kelly Resignation Called For By Muslims Angered By Anti-Islam Movie

NEW YORK — Muslim groups are calling for New York’s police commissioner to step down because of his appearance in a film they say puts their religion and its adherents in a bad light.

About 20 activists held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Thursday and criticized Ray Kelly for giving an interview to the producers of the movie “The Third Jihad.”

The movie uses dramatic footage to warn against the dangers of radical Islam and shariah, or Islamic law. Muslim groups say it encourages Americans to be suspicious of all Muslims.

“Terrorism is an evil that must be eliminated, but one cannot fight wrong with wrong,” said Talib Abdur-Rashid, a Muslim cleric.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he stood by Kelly and the commissioner’s spokesman, Paul Browne. Activists had also demanded Browne’s resignation.

However, the mayor said Kelly would have to redouble his outreach efforts to Muslims.

“Anything like this doesn’t help credibility, so Ray’s got to work at establishing, re-establishing or reinforcing the credibility that he does have,” Bloomberg said.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasts use of controversial movie during NYPD training sessions

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Tuesday that whoever decided to show a film depicting American Muslims as extremists to nearly 1,500 city police officers “exercised some terrible judgment.”

Bloomberg said police have stopped showing officers “The Third Jihad,” a 72-minute movie that has been branded inflammatory by some Muslim organizations and was produced by a conservative group called the Clarion Fund.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday that New York police used “terrible judgment” in showing counterterrorism trainees a documentary-style film that says Muslim extremists are masquerading as moderates to destroy America from within.

Mr. Bloomberg said that neither he nor the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, had known at the time that the film, “The Third Jihad,” was being shown to officers. Speaking to reporters after testifying here at a state budget hearing, Mr. Bloomberg said that the film had not been shown at the Police Academy.

“It was done someplace else and as soon as they found out about it they stopped it and took it down,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Somebody exercised some terrible judgment. I don’t know who. We’ll find out.”

When the screening of the film for some officers was first revealed last year by Tom Robbins of The Village Voice, the Police Department’s main spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said it had been screened “a couple of times.”

No Room for Tolerance (NY Times Editorial)

There have been a slew of local controversies in the past decade over the proposed construction of mosques and Islamic community centers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rightly stood up for religious liberty against vitriolic opposition to the construction of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. With the mayor’s support, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously allowed the project to proceed and it is, slowly.

Such good sense is not as common as it should be. This spring, officials in Bridgewater, N.J., opposed a plan to turn an old inn, formerly used for weddings and political events, into the town’s only mosque. Rather than stand up to the opposition, stirred up partly by the Tea Party, the mayor, the township council and the planning board raced to change the zoning rules so that a house of worship would no longer be a permitted use on the inn’s property.

Veteran Vendor Lance Orton Is Times Square Hero

(CANVAS STAFF REPORTS) – “I’m not a celebrity, I’m just an average Joe,” Lance Orton told the New York Daily News Sunday night from his apartment in the Bronx. But this average Joe is being hailed as the savior of Times Square.

Orton is one of the street vendors who alerted police to the suspicious dark-colored SUV that contained a home-made bomb, reported The New York Times . Orton sells T-shirts near the area in which the car was parked.

He and Duane Jackson, a handbag vendor, were the first to notice that something was strange about the car. Jackson told MyFox NY’s ‘Good Day NY’ co-host Greg Kelly : “When the smoke started, I realized there might be more to this than meets the eye.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had dinner on Sunday night in Times Square with Jackson and NYPD Officer Wayne Rhatigan, who was alerted by the vendors and was the first to begin to clear the are around the SUV. Orton, though passed on dinner with the mayor, according to MSNBC.com .

According to Reuters , New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg praised Orton: “Lance Orton saw something and did something about it.”

Orton said in a TV interview after the incident that he’s been a street vendor for 22 years. Walking with a limp and wearing a Monster energy drink T-shirt, he said of his vending position: “I don’t have too much choice. Nobody’s giving me a job.”

Surrounded by reporters as he walked to a taxi on Sunday morning, Orton was a bit surly, claiming: “Part of my reason for having this attitude is I’ve given some of you interviews before and you wrote the opposite of what I said in the paper, so that’s my problem with you.”

When asked if he was proud of his actions, he said: “Of course, man. I’m a veteran. What do you think?” As he got into the cab, the Vietnam vet said his advice to the city of New York was: “See something, say something.”

Now Orton is being mentioned in news articles around the world. His family members are also being sought out.

Miriam Citron, the mother of Orton’s son, told the New York Times that Orton would regularly alert police if something didn’t look right: “When he was in Vietnam, he said they had to make decisions and judgments from their gut, from their own feelings … His instinct was telling him something’s not right.”

Orton’s mother, Jean Jarrett, told the Daily News : “I’m sure he saved a lot of lives.”