Posted by on May 06, 2013 in Blog

Official Seal of New YorkExcellent question, and we’re pleased that Mayoral candidate Jon Liu asked it at yesterday’s Mayoral Forum in New York. The event was convened by the Arab American Association of New York and the Islamic Center at New York University. All six democratic candidates (Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn, Erick Salgado, and Bill Thompson) participated, as did Independent Adolfo Carrion, Jr. Republican candidates were invited, but declined to take part.

Key topics at Sunday’s forum were the protection of civil liberties and the candidates’ opinions on the NYPD spying program. Uncovered in 2011, the spying program—designed in cooperation with the CIA—targeted the Arab American and American Muslim communities. Over a 6-year period, the NYPD enlisted “mosque crawlers” and infiltrators; used the threat of deportation to force cab drivers to spy on specific neighborhoods; required no evidence of wrongdoing or suspicion to justify the activities; and took agents well out of their New York City jurisdiction—as far afield as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Despite that, the NYPD admitted in court that the spying program didn’t uncover a single lead or terrorism case. It did, however, practically decimate the NYPD’s relationships with the Arab American and American Muslim communities.

When asked who believed the spying program to be unconstitutional, only Lui and Salgado raised their hands, although most agreed that the program should be dismantled. “To single any group out because of what they believe in, the religion that they worship, and who they are, that isn’t New York City, that isn’t this country, that isn’t what we believe in,” said Bill Thompson. Candidates offered suggestions for rebuilding relationships with the community—from implementing a bill to prevent racial profiling, to hiring an inspector general for the NYPD, to replacing New York Police Commissioner Kelly.  

One of the most important aspects of this event is that AAANY got the candidates on record addressing the NYPD program and the protection of civil liberties. This was much more than Mayoral hopefuls taking to our community—this event had candidates engage with the community and with our issues and concerns. Although only two candidates indicated they believe the program to be unconstitutional, several agreed it should be dismantled—that’s a big step forward.

AAI will be keeping an eye on all the 2013 elections and candidates in our key states, and we urge you to do the same. Keep us posted on your conversations with the candidates, and if you have the chance, take a cue from AAANY and get them on record!

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