Protesters say police roughed up Arab family while family was resisting arrest

19 01 2008

PATERSON — More than 200 Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans marched and chanted slogans Friday against police tactics that left members of a Syrian-American family injured and facing felony assault charges.

“Justice to the Muslim community,” they shouted as they held placards above their heads. “Justice to the Haq family. Bring the abusers to justice.”

The crowd gathered outside City Hall to protest the bruises, a broken nose and deep gashes that three members of the Haq family — mother, father and eldest son — suffered after they allegedly grappled with three police officers Wednesday inside their Dakota Street home.

The officers came to investigate a 911 call of adult-on-child domestic violence at the house. Police say the eldest son, Saer Haq, 26, threatened to kill the officers.

The melee ended when the officers arrested the three Haq family members who allegedly assaulted them: Saer Haq; his father, Sammy Haq, 52; and his mother, Montha Haq, 49.

Also arrested was Ammar Haq, Saer Haq’s 21-year-old brother, and a neighbor, Gunnur Kulaksiz, 42.

Police officials maintained that the officers’ response was appropriate under the circumstances. They say Saer, Sammy and Montha Haq jumped on the officers as they were trying to arrest Saer Haq, who has an arrest record that includes several resisting-arrest offenses and one assault charge stemming from a Feb. 14, 2005, domestic violence complaint, according to police records released Friday.

“The police department and the police are justified to use whatever force to affect an arrest,” Police Chief James Wittig said after the protesters left City Hall to rally before the Public Safety Complex on Broadway.

Some protesters said they were not so much bothered by the fact that the five were arrested but that three of them were bloodied in the process.

“How much force do they need to arrest people?” said Mohammed Latif, 29, who traveled from Linwood in Atlantic County after seeing images of the injured family in an Arabic-language newspaper. “That just reminds me of Abu Ghraib.”

Wittig said: “How about the police officers who were injured?”

Two of the officers involved were treated at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center for minor injuries and released.

Friday’s protest was mostly peaceful, minus a short tussle between protest organizer Hani Awadallah and Mayor Joey Torres, in which the mayor tried to keep Awadallah from grabbing a microphone used during the mayor’s short press conference. So Awadallah used his voice instead. He shouted into the cold afternoon air:

“We came here in peace and we will be leaving in peace.”

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2 responses

21 01 2008
TheRock

nice work man on ur blog

24 01 2008
a tax payer

Nice to see a police department that stands behind officers doing their job. Unlike Passaic under the former chief.

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