Arab-American Activists Chased in Brooklyn
A drunken man chased two female Arab-American community organizers in Brooklyn, New York, threatening to behead them and throwing a large metal garbage can at them.
Despite two separate 911 calls, the New York police department took more than 45 minutes to respond. The department sent top hate crime investigators after one of the women, a prominent activist, told her story at an NYPD community relations meeting that happened soon after the incident on Wednesday.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, said she initially found the man leaning against the wall near her social services agency.
“I was leaving to a meeting and I went outside and found a man leaning up against our storefront,” said Sarsour. “So, I went back inside and I said to my deputy director, ‘Hey, can you call 911 and just tell them there’s a man in front of our storefront and can they remove him?’”
“I’m literally giving these instructions, next thing you know — boom! He gets up out of nowhere, like a surge of energy, and he starts chasing me and my colleague up the street,” said Sarsour. “He’s like, ‘You’re cutting people’s heads off! I’m going to cut your head off and see how your people feel about it!’”
While running, Sarsour said, she and her colleague again called 911, saying the man they had requested be removed was violent and chasing them down busy 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. While chasing them, the man picked up a department of sanitation metal garbage can and threw it at the women. Sarsour said she believed the man may have had a tool in his back pocket.
She and her colleague fled into a nearby business and locked the door, where they stayed until the man wandered off, on to a residential street. “Just literally walked away, went up a residential street because of course law enforcement didn’t show up,” said Sarsour.
The AAANY is little more than half a mile from the police precinct. Again on her way to a public meeting with top NYPD leaders, Sarsour said she saw a police car in front of a bagel store, and confronted two police inside, asking why they had not responded. After she left it took police another 15 minutes to respond to the AAANY.
“Anyway, I walked into the meeting late,” said Sarsour, “and I just told my story. And NYPD top brass was horrified — they were like ‘What?’”
A man, 45-year-old Brian Boshell, has since been arrested in connection with the incident. He was charged with criminal possession of a weapon — for throwing the trash can — aggravated harassment as a hate crime, aggravated harassment, menacing and three counts of menacing as a hate crime. The NYPD said there was no information on the specific threats the man used or how long it took the NYPD to respond.
An internal investigation into the NYPD response was launched after Sarsour told her story.
“The point, what I really want to get across in this story, is I just happened to be a well-known activist in New York City,” Sarsour said. “But what about when it’s ordinary people who don’t know how the system works? Who call 911 in cases of emergency? And also people for whom English is not their first language?”
The dispatcher, Sarsour said, was not told that the man was screaming Islamophobic epithets, but that a violent man was chasing two women down a street. - The Guardian