Justice for Alaa

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Alaa Massri was unlawfully arrested during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Miami, FL on the 10th of June, 2020. After witnessing an individual being hit with a police vehicle, Alaa Massri saw another vehicle approaching a small group of protesters. Being the team's medic, she rushed to go aid whomever might have been injured but was stopped by 6-8 cops in riot gear. After repeatedly asking the police officers (Officer Corral, #41643) not to touch her, in a polite yet concerned manner, Ms.Massri attempted to walk away. Instead, she was surrounded and arrested. Alaa was then zip-tied and later charged with battery, resisting an officer with violence, and disorderly conduct. Witnesses observed that she was not acting in a disorderly fashion and was simply coming to the aid of an injured individual. 

Once handcuffed at TGK (correctional facility), Ms.Massri’s hijab (headscarf) was unlawfully removed. Her mugshot was then taken without it on. That photo was then broadcasted to national television and numerous media outlets. She was also not allowed to have her hijab on for the remainder of the seven hours she was there. 


Ms. Massri had her human as well as Constitutional rights blatantly violated in a number of ways. Her 1st Amendment right to peacefully protest was egregiously infringed on when she was arrested with no inciting incident or probable cause for her detainment. Ms. Massri was not told the grounds for her arrest nor read her Miranda Rights until more than four hours after being taken into custody. Under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement is required to read rights to a detainee. However, this becomes a null point when the detainee has already been in custody for several hours. Still, the most infuriating component of Ms. Massri’s incarceration was the appalling violation of her religious rights. As a Muslim, Ms. Massri is required to cover her hair with a traditional headscarf (hijab). She repeatedly made officers aware of this fact, yet they still removed her hijab in front of male police officers (completely disrespecting her way of life). They also took her mugshot with her hijab off and distributed it to news outlets (further spreading the lack of compassion they had for her). They not only assaulted her and charged her with false crimes to detain her. They consciously took away her rights to be a woman practicing Islam and spread an image she never thought would be out in the world. 

In 2000, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which explicitly outlines that the religious practices of incarcerated people not be infringed upon. Also defined in the 2019 Florida Statutes, 


“(1)The government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except that government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:

(a) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(b) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.


(2) A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief.” 


(under Title XLIV Civil Rights, Chapter 761 Religious Freedom Section 761.03) 

 

The actions taken by the officers explicitly burdened Ms. Massri’s exercise of religion (1), and under her rights as a Florida citizen, she is entitled to appropriate relief (2). The entire detainment ordeal has been incredibly damaging to Ms. Massri physically, mentally and emotionally. The officers had several opportunities to respect Ms. Massri’s rights as well as the law that they enforce, but they chose not to as a scare tactic to other peaceful protestors. 

We are trying to bring attention to the growing concern that is the Miami Police department. We want all charges towards Ms.Massri to be dropped. We want her mugshot taken down. We want the police officers who committed this injustice, to be publicly investigated and held responsible. Stand in favor of human rights. Please sign this petition and help make police officers accountable.