September opened with the news that Chaumtoli Huq, a former top lawyer for the New York City public advocate’s office, had filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD. In July, Huq was waiting outside a Ruby Tuesday near Times Square for her husband to return from taking their two small children to the restroom. According to the suit, Huq was accosted by several officers and told that she needed to move on, as she was blocking the sidewalk. Huq explained that she was waiting for her husband and children, but to accommodate the officers, she moved as close to the wall of the restaurant as she could.
Huq claims that she was suddenly flipped around, pushed against the wall and handcuffed roughly. Two male officers dragged her down the street so forcibly she lost a shoe and had to walk on the asphalt without it. One of the officers, Ryan Lathrop, appeared in photos to have her handcuffed arms cranked up in a painful position (called an “underhook” in MMA fighting). When Huq expressed that she was in pain, he told her, “Shut your mouth” and “You’re my prisoner.” (Lathrop is currently under investigation for another excessive-force incident).
The family had just attended a pro-Palestinian rally in Times Square, and Huq, who has a nose-ring, was dressed in a “traditional South Asian tunic.” Huq believes the “arrest was based on perceptions of her race, gender, religion, and political affiliation, and not on any violation of law.”
Via e-mail, Huq told me that after the parade, she planned to take her children on a picnic, but instead, her children and husband emerged from the restaurant to find her missing, informed by police where she was and then were forced to go to the precinct to find her. She was detained for nine hours.
According to the criminal complaint (charges: obstruction of governmental administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest), Huq told Officer Lathrop, “I’m not in anybody’s way. Why do I have to move? What’s the problem?”
Huq’s ordeal reminds me, uncomfortably, of another case of resisting arrest, that of Arizona State University assistant professor Ersula Ore, who was stopped for jaywalking in the middle of the street since the sidewalk was obstructed by construction. Ore was asked for ID, and she took the time to point out that she alone, an African-American, had been stopped, while other white jaywalkers proceeded. Her quotidian walk home from class ended with her slammed on the ground and arrested.
While I cannot comment on the legal nuances of either case, both women’s interactions with the officers to me sounded like explaining, not resisting arrest. Huq was standing outside a restaurant, like any of a million New Yorkers waiting for brunch on Sunday morning. In Ore’s case, when the officer demanded to see identification, she said, “Why did you have to speak to me in such a disrespectful manner?” This sounds to me like assertive self-advocacy, maybe even a teachable moment. In the video or Ore’s arrest, you can see that this is the moment the incident starts to go downhill.