Homeland Security

Muslim Activist Detained After Refusing Staten Island Ferry Bag Check, Predictability Ensues

Self-styled “community organizer” and “civil rights activist” Hesham El-Meligy was detained earlier today by the NYPD after refusing a bag search while attempting to board the Staten Island Ferry.

Predictably, El-Meligy is claiming racial profiling and “Islamophobia,” and insisting his rights were denied. But fellow Staten Islanders are pushing back on his claims.

The Staten Island Advance reports:

A religious and political activist on Staten Island claims he was placed in handcuffs, frisked and issued two summonses by NYPD officers based on the way he looks.

Hesham El-Meligy, a Muslim who was born in Egypt, was temporarily detained and searched by police at about 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in St. George, after he refused a random bag check.

After a search of his backpack, he was issued summonses for trespassing and disorderly conduct and allowed on to the ferry, police said Thursday.

El-Meligy, founder of the Islamic Civic Association on Staten Island and chairman of the Staten Island Libertarian Party, said he believes the bag check wasn’t so random.

He took to Facebook hours after the incident, saying he felt singled out because his Egyptian heritage.

“I have no doubt that many (people) are in fact stopped randomly, but the manner this was done in my particular case made it feel different,” said El-Meligy.

But at least one eyewitness to El-Meligy’s detention disputes his account:

Here is the account he posted to Facebook:

So, this morning, around 7:50 am, while walking toward the entrance of the waiting hall, inside the Staten Island Ferry…

Posted by Hesham El-Meligy on Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The NYPD denies that El-Meligy was singled out. Again, from the Staten Island Advance article:

A spokeswoman for the NYPD said there’s no set guidelines as to which passengers are selected, such as every fifth or tenth person.

“There’s no science to it,” said Det. Kellyann Ort. “It’s like flipping a coin.”

She said El-Meligy was not personally selected.

“Many other people had their bags checked during that same time frame.”

But El-Meligy argued police were in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

I was recently on the Staten Island Ferry, and signs in both the St. George and Whitehall terminals state clearly that by riding passengers consent to bag searches. Except if you’re Hesham El-Meligy, apparently.

Even the Staten Island Ferry website spells out the bag search in the terms of service:

As a resident of Staten Island, El-Meligy had presumably not only previously seen bag searches, but perhaps had his own bags searched before. But it seems he only discovered this was a violation of anyone’s Fourth Amendment rights earlier today.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has already weighed in, saying that profiling Muslims is not allowed. That’s true, of course, but apart from El-Meligy’s “feelings” there’s no evidence that is what transpired earlier today.

El-Meligy says he will be seeking counsel to address his complaints, and in the current political climate, President Trump’s policies will undoubtedly be invoked — a subject on which El-Meligy has already expressed some of his opinions:

Staten Island is known as a mostly working class community. “Teachers and cops,” as the locals say. If Hesham El-Meligy wants to endear himself to his neighbors, he should probably drop the grievance theater or provide some evidence that the bag search policy is in fact being applied in a discriminatory manner beyond how he felt this morning.