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Anti-racist of Indian descent removed from plane, interrogated by FBI

15 Feb 2002

From: Mike, People Against Racist Terror

Vik Chaubey, an associate of mine for a number of  years in People Against Racist Terror (PART) divides  his time between LA (where his folks live) and NYS  (where he attends graduate school). He is of "East"  Indian descent, has worked with DRUM (a south Asian  organization in NY) as well as with PART and in the  prison rights movement here in southern California.    He was heading back to NY this week to return to  graduate school upstate and continue his graduate  studies, when he got pulled from his flight and was  forced to undergo several hours of interrogation -- at  gunpoint -- by the FBI, Long Beach cops, and security  for JetBlue Airlines which has inexpensive flights  from the Long Beach airport to the east coast. 

Here is his account of the outrageous treatment he  received before finally being released and allowed to  fly back to NY (on other airlines by a very circuitous  route):

It was good talking to you yesterday. Here is what  happened at the Long Beach Airport on February 5. I  enter Long Beach airport at 10:15 a.m. and I go  through security. 10:40 I enter JetBlue Airline and I  sit in seat 3A and talk with two passengers sitting  next to me. One of the passengers is a white female  from Torrance (she went to school at UCLA and  Pepperdine). I tell her that I am studying Terrorism  and culture at a university in New York State. I  discuss with her my education at Cal State San  Bernardino and Cal State L.A. I discuss with her about  New York and I even tell her that I miss California  food. She gets alarmed when I have not fastened my  seat belt (it is still around 11:00 a.m.) and she  feels that I do not like seat belts. She tells her  friend who was sitting next to her that she is going  to the bathroom (which was a lie); she actually goes  and complains about me to JetBlue.

Long Beach airport police come and escort me out of  seat and out of the airplane. From this point I am  detained and they take me to a room where they  interrogate me. The interrogation begins with three  Long Beach airport police, One National Guard soldier  carrying a machinegun which was pointed at me for the  two and half hours I was interrogated. Every item in  the three bags I had was searched. I was told to sit  down at one place for the entire time. So I get asked  at the beginning of the interrogation about the  'statement' I made about 'terrorism' (which is that I  was studying terrorism in grad school). Items in my  bags were asked about many times. They asked a lot of  questions about pictures I took of New York City. A  Jet Blue security representative asked me about how I  paid for the ticket.
 
Finally they bring in Long Beach police and the FBI  into the mix. They start to ask questions and  questions get more intense. It is clear to me that  they think I am a terrorist (they ask me questions  about 9/11, papers I have written about terrorism,  have I been to Israel, Egypt, Pakistan and India).  They read my papers that I have written about  terrorism, books that I have on Terrorism and Islam.  They ask me several things about Islam. They also ask  me about calls I had made to cell phones. They ask me  about why I am an activist. The ask me about Noam  Chomsky and John Esposito.
 
Essentially their 'case' against me was statements I  had made to two passengers, their belief that I did  not answer some of their questions as well as I could  have (the word they used was 'evasive'), and the fact  that I had a 'prior warning' (I was walking around  Long Beach airport -- I live half the year in Long  Beach -- and I was given a warning; this took place  around 2000). A Long Beach cop said he recognized me  from the July 4th sustainable energy demonstration. At  the end of the interrogation Jet Blue said I would  never fly on their airline and threatened me that I  would never fly again on any airline in the U.S. He  told me I would have to take Amtrak from NY to CA. The  FBI warned me not to this again 'and the next time you  are arrested.' They said that I was lucky that I was  not arrested this time.  The interrogation took place for two and half hours.  My civil rights were clearly violated and they showed  a reckless disregard for the rights of one passenger.  9/11 was clearly their excuse. I feel strongly that  JetBlue in particular was out of bounds and especially  they way they tried to intimidate me. These people  came up with nothing against me. Mike, I do give you  permission to publicize this. Good luck in the rally  in Long Beach tomorrow. Take care.

Vik


The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail info@alliancesouthasia.org

20 May 2006

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