ADC Calls for Thorough Investigation of Terror False Alarm in Florida
WASHINGTON, DC – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) expressed serious concern about the circumstances leading to yesterday’s arrest on a Florida interstate highway of three medical students on their way to Larkin Community Hospital in South Miami to begin training on Monday.
The three men, who were held for seventeen hours, were apprehended after Eunice Stone of Cartersville, Georgia reported to the local police over-hearing the three Muslim men “laughing at 9/11” and discussing what she said appeared to be a terrorist plot at a Shoney’s restaurant in Calhoun, GA. The three, two American citizens and a foreign national with a valid student visa, were released without being charged after the authorities verified their identities and thoroughly searched their cars for explosives while the whole ordeal was televised nationally.
The men told reporters that there is no truth to Ms. Stone’s allegations about their conversation and said they believe that her concerns were actually prompted by their Middle Eastern and Muslim appearance. Some officials and journalists have speculated that the men may have been “joking” or performing a “hoax.” Local officials in Georgia admitted to the media that the tremendous law enforcement response was exaggerated but blamed that on the lack of cooperation by the three students. Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter was quoted as saying: “We had a very significant drill.”
ADC President Ziad Asali urged the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation “to look into the circumstances surrounding this incident for potential civil rights violations and to ensure that appropriate procedures are being followed by all law enforcement agencies.” Dr. Asali commented “Arab Americans, like all Americans, are justifiably concerned about our nation’s security at this difficult time and appreciate the difficulty faced by law enforcement personnel in keeping us safe. However, in light of this false alarm, we strongly urge the Justice Department to reassess the effectiveness and potential shortcomings of new security systems involving heightened public vigilance.”
Dr. Asali pointed out that “While some authorities continue to insist that the incident proves that new security systems and norms are working well, it will be impossible to accurately evaluate and draw lessons from the incident without determining what actually occurred in the Georgia restaurant. Clearly, if the account forwarded to authorities of the conversation the men were having was accurate, whether they were ‘joking’ or not, suspicion was well-warranted. However, if suspicions were based mainly on the men’s appearance and/or dress, the new public-vigilance systems will be showing ever-greater signs of degenerating into a vehicle for prejudice.”