Washington, DC — Following the official declaration of Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential candidacy, Muslim civil rights group Muslim Advocates and victims of his discriminatory Muslim surveillance program demanded that the former New York City mayor who oversaw and defended the program disavow it. On Monday, Muslim victims of the spying program met with NYPD and City officials to share their stories of being spied on and profiled.
Under the Bloomberg administration, the New York Police Department (NYPD) enacted a sweeping, years-long surveillance and profiling program targeting Muslims in New York and New Jersey. For being guilty of the crime of being Muslim, potentially thousands of innocent people were subject to video surveillance, photographed license plates, community mapping programs and had undercover officers infiltrate their mosques, schools, businesses and restaurants. The spying program led to a major civil rights lawsuit, Hassan v. City of New York, and a landmark settlement that required the NYPD to halt suspicionless surveillance activities on the basis of religion or ethnicity. The plaintiffs in Hassan were represented by Muslim Advocates, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Gibbons, P.C. law firm and the terms of that settlement were recently completed.
Despite widespread outrage, Bloomberg in 2012 defended the program, saying “that’s what you would expect them to do. That’s what you would want them to.” Additionally, in 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump praised the Bloomberg administration for supporting the NYPD’s Muslim spying program, saying “we had great surveillance going on in and around mosques in New York City."
Quote from Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates:
“In America, the government isn’t supposed to spy on houses of worship and schools without evidence of wrongdoing, yet Michael Bloomberg continues to defend his anti-Muslim surveillance program. Bloomberg’s program was rebuked by a federal court, yet he never disavowed or even apologized for his actions. This program helped lay the foundation for the anti-Muslim disasters of the Trump Administration and, in fact, Bloomberg’s mosque spying program is Trump-endorsed. Mr. Bloomberg needs to make amends and disavow this program and religious discrimination in all of its forms.”
Quote from Ali Naquvi, a victim of the NYPD spying program and the advocacy director for the Husayn Center for Social Justice in Trenton, NJ:
“Our mosques, our schools, our businesses, our entire communities were targeted, infiltrated and surveilled just because we are Muslim. It was an insult to America’s promise of religious freedom for all. This program hurt our community. Michael Bloomberg has defended it for years, has never apologized for it and never committed to making it right.”
Quote from Debbie Almontaser, longtime New York City activist for Muslim and Yemeni-Americans:
“Michael Bloomberg not only oversaw one of the most heinous and sweeping violations of religious freedom in recent memory, he also defended it and has refused to apologize. The NYPD Muslim spying program was a forerunner to the anti-Muslim proposals and policies of the Trump Administration, such as the Muslim Ban, and it must be disavowed.”