Group detained in August says they were racially profiled
Six Michigan men who in August were escorted off an American Airlines flight and then detained filed a race discrimination lawsuit Wednesday against the airline, saying the incident was a clear case of racial profiling, false imprisonment and a violation of civil rights.
Filed in U.S. District Court by Allen Brothers PLLC of Detroit, the lawsuit seeks hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensatory damages for hours of detainment, interrogation, public humiliation and embarrassment. The incident occurred when the group was returning home from providing consulting work for U.S. troops.
"The airline treated these individuals like criminals, simply because of stereotyping and ignorance. The irony is, these men were returning home from training our troops before deployment to Iraq," said Lawrence Garcia, the attorney representing the men. "This kind of prejudice is completely un- American."
The incident occurred August 28 on American Airlines Flight 590, which left and then returned to the gate in San Diego, Calif., at the behest of the Airline's flight crew. The flight, which was headed to Chicago, was rescheduled from Aug. 28 to Aug. 29 as a result.
When the airplane returned to the gate, the gentlemen were segregated and detained, while the other 113 passengers were assisted in finding hotel rooms. All of the men who were detained were of Middle Eastern ethnic origin. No other persons were detained or questioned.
"They treated me like a terrorist; I'm anything but a terrorist," said David Al-Watan, one of the men detained by American Airlines. "We didn't do anything wrong, but they made everybody scared of us."
The men who filed suit are: David Al-Watan, Talal Cholagh, Ali Alzerej, Hassan Alzerej, Hussein Alsalih and Mohammad Al-Saedy.
Arab-Americans have experienced a surge in hate crimes over the past several years, with the FBI having documented a 1,600 percent increase in hate crimes following 9/11 against those perceived to be Muslim or Arab. [Link]
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