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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.
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 email@example.com
20 May 2006
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