This is what profiling looks like

It’s been quite a day here in New York City.  I woke up at 3am this morning and arrived at Liberty Square at 4:00 to protect the Occupy Wall Street encampment from eviction.  Sleep deprived but fired up, I joined with thousands of others who showed up to stand in solidarity with this growing movement for economic justice.  Before I left my house, I wrote the phone number for the National Lawyers Guild on my arm with a Sharpie, preparing for a possible arrest.

I was planning on participating in civil disobedience this morning.  I expected to sit down and lock arms with hundreds of others, forming a barrier around Liberty Square to keep park owner Brookfield’s sanitation crew, and the police, from entering the park and in effect, ending the occupation (occupation in this case being a good thing, for a change).

As many of you have probably heard by now, Brookfield Properties postponed its cleaning of the park at the last minute, and the Mayor instructed the NYPD to hold off in its plans to remove the protesters.  We were thrilled, elated, victorious this morning.  We held the park, and the occupation of Wall Street continues.

Several hours later after a long nap at home in Brooklyn, I rode my bike back into downtown Manhattan to meet up near the World Trade Center site with some family visiting from India (a few short blocks from where my day began at 4am).  My family was running late, so I sat on the corner we decided to meet on, leaning against a fence.  After about five minutes, two men wearing hoodies and jeans approached me.  One of them unzipped his hoodie, revealing an NYPD badge.

“What are you doing here?” the officer asked, as his partner stood near, somewhat intimidatingly.

“I am waiting for someone,” I responded.  “What’s the problem?  I can’t wait on a street corner for someone?”

What proceeded was a 5 to 10 minute interrogation:  Who are you waiting for, why, where are you from, where do you live, why are you waiting on this corner, where are you going, do you work in the area, did you lose any family members on 9/11, what is your family doing in the area, and “Can I see some ID?”

“Why do I need to show you ID?  I need ID to sit on a street corner in the middle of the day?”

The officer insisted he wasn’t singling me out, defensively insisting that it was a high security area.  After all, I had been sitting there for over five minutes.  Quite suspicious.  He wrote down all my information from my ID, saying that he had to show it to his supervisor and it wouldn’t appear on my record.  Just standard protocol.

I took lots of deep breaths and tried to remain calm.  While I thought I might get arrested today, this is not at all how I expected it to go down.  I was alone.  Just me and my bike on the corner of Fulton and Church, cornered by two plain clothes cops asking me a whole lot of questions.

I did what they asked, but not without a little irreverence and defiance, not without pushing back, at least a little bit.  I knew I couldn’t push too hard because these are cops and this is New York City, the land of the infamous “white shirts”, 50 shotsthe NYPD Demographics Unit, and Mosque Crawlers.

Brown man waiting, turban, beard, bicycle, ground zero.

If you see something, say something.

How do we stay safe, while maintaining our dignity?  I am reminded of other hard decisions one should never have to make that I previously wrote about. 

In the end, I did not get arrested today.  We live in a police state, but Liberty Square is still the people’s.  And tomorrow, we’ll take Times Square.

A change is gonna come. 


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9 Responses to “This is what profiling looks like”

  1. Rahul Jain says:

    Well, I'm not sure how OWS and fair treatment of Indians go together. After all, Wall Street is the reason why about 50% of the Indians in this area and about 5% of the middle class in India are employed. Still, I agree with a lot of the sentiments in both regards. Just think they're attacking the wrong things. Wall Street averted economic decline for 10 years. And they were just doing what pension funds and governments wanted them to do.

  2. Patel says:

    Occupy the Wall Street is nothing to do with Sikhs. Sikhs is the hardworking backbone of India willing to sacrifice for others. Occupy the Wall Street is about these things:
    DO NOT work hard
    DO NOT try to start your own businesses
    DO ask for handouts
    DO act like fools

  3. Zkaur says:

    Brother I appreciate your commitment and you standing up to the cops! May Waheguru be with you every step of the way as you tackle the world as a Sant-Sipahi. Nothin but love.

  4. PunjCoder says:

    Kudos on standing up! "Those that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

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