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New York City Rejects Singling Out Muslims for Surveillance

NEW YORK, Mar 25 2016 (IPS) - With the rise in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Muslim community in New York City is fast becoming the centre of attention in the US presidential campaign currently underway.

But the city’s Police Commissioner William Bratton strongly denounced a statement attributed to Republican Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who called on the police to “patrol and secure” Muslim communities.

Addressing a press conference, Bratton told reporters that Cruz was “out of line” and unfit for the White House and pointed out there were 900 Muslim members in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Bratton’s comments were backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who shared the stage with the Police Commissioner as they faced reporters.

Currently, there are over 600,000 Muslims in a city with a population of more than 8.5 million people. New York is considered one of America’s most culturally and religiously diverse cities.

The political rhetoric against Muslims – erroneously perceived as being potential terrorists or sympathizers with global terrorism – has been rising in the current presidential campaign with the Republican front runner Donald Trump calling for a temporary halt to all Muslim visitors entering the US.

Referring to Cruz’s comments, Bratton told reporters: “He doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, to be frank with you.” “While he’s running around here, he probably has some Muslim officers guarding him.”

“If he’s that short-sighted, I can understand why the American public would repudiate his efforts to run this great country,” said Bratton. “You’ve got to be careful when you paint with a broad brush, because you tend to spill some of that paint on yourself,” he warned.

NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller, who is in charge of counter-terrorism, said the call for “patrol and secure” had a sub-text: “occupy and intimidate”.

He said the NYPD has more than 15,000 in its Counter-Terrorism task force and has no plans to intrude into Muslim communities in violation of their civil rights.

Miller said the NYPD has been sending investigate teams to France, Belgium and Tunisia following several terrorist attacks in these countries.

The current rhetoric, he said, is reminiscent of the internment of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans in 1942 (after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) and the “red scare” of Communism during the McCarthy era in the 1950s when thousands of Americans were falsely accused of being Communists and a threat to the United States.

Bratton said New York City has, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country — and virtually any city in the world.

These, he said, include: the Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Critical Response Command, deploying more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets; the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; the NYPD Intelligence Bureau; and the NYPD Domain Awareness System consisting of one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world.


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