Chicago’s Arab-American community launches campaign to end racial profiling after report documents baseless accusations of suspicious activity

CHICAGO (CBS) – Following a story we aired Thursday night on CBS 2, the Arab-American community in Chicago is calling on police to end the use of suspicious activity reports after a groundbreaking study finds that reports were used as a racial profiling tool.

We gave you the first exclusive look at the report’s findings on Thursday evening.

Read the full report here on the AAAN website, or below

AAAN Final Report by
Adam Harington on Scribd

On Friday, the Arab American Action Network officially launched its campaign to end racial profiling.

And as CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey reported, getting a response from law enforcement has been harder than you might think.

For generations, they have feared discrimination and police surveillance because of their identity and appearance. Now the Arab American Action Network, or AAAN, says its new analysis finally confirms those fears — with data.

AAAN got their hands on 235 “suspicious activity reports,” or SARs for short, from the Chicago Police Department and Illinois State Police — written between 2016 and 2019. They discovered a worrying pattern.

“Middle Eastern, Olive Skin, Arab or Muslim – we’re talking over 50% of these reports,” said AAAN lead organizer Muhammad Sankari.

More than half of the reports described “suspects” of Arab descent – ​​significant in a state like Illinois, where Arab Americans make up just over 1% of the population.

And it’s not just Arab Americans – about 70% of all reports have identified people of color. Many reports were about everyday activities such as taking pictures in public or simply speaking another language.

“It’s like hard proof that you know we’re not making this up,” said AAAN member Nadiah Alyafai. “It’s happening.”

State police and the FBI told us that laws prohibit them from investigating any case based solely on race or ethnicity. Hickey asked Sankari if the AAAN report contradicted this claim.

“The proof is in the pudding, isn’t it?” Sankari said. “Why do 50% of these reports, over 50, target less than 1.5% of the population of the State of Illinois of a particular nationality or religious group? There’s no answer.

ISP and the FBI wouldn’t do camera interviews, and the CPD never even responded to our multiple requests. There was still nothing from them on Friday.

AAAN says they also haven’t had productive conversations with law enforcement. And now they demand answers.

“We don’t ask. We demand,” Sankari said. “We will continue to fight until we end SAR in Illinois.”

In terms of what this campaign will look like, AAAN says they will hold town hall meetings and accountability sessions with the police – and ask them to prove that their police are not targeting Arabs and Muslims.

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