BY OLGA RODRÍGUEZ
NEW YORK - Before dawn on July 31, hundreds of local and federal cops carried out what amounted to a commando raid on a working-class community in Brooklyn. The assault - complete with helicopters, massive fire-power, and snipers on rooftops - was ostensibly conducted to foil an alleged bomb plot. With guns blazing, the cops smashed down the door of an apartment and shot two young Palestinian men, Ghazi Abu Maizar and Lafi Khalil.
Acting on a tip from a roommate who claimed that the two were building bombs in their apartment, the cops cordoned off an area of about 18 blocks and ordered about 90 working people to leave their apartments. The authorities also closed down subway service and the Long Island Railroad commuter line in one of the heaviest trafficked transportation hubs in the city during rush hour. Residents were not allowed to return to their homes until 2:00 p.m.
In their rampage through the raided building, the cops also broke the door off its hinges at the apartment of a Pakistani immigrant worker living on the top floor of the building. Masood Mughal told the press that he and his three roommates were roughed up by the cops. "They treated me like a suspect and put me in jail," he said. "They asked my nationality and wouldn't tell me why I was there." Mughal felt he was detained "because I am a Muslim."
Santiago Velásquez, a driver for the car service doing business on the ground floor of the raided building, had just finished his shift when the cops threw him to the ground and aimed a gun at his head. Max Rodríguez, the owner of the car service, said four of his drivers were caught up in the roundup by the cops and briefly taken into custody.
Federal and local authorities justified their assault on the neighborhood by claiming to have discovered two homemade explosive devices in the apartment of the Palestinian immigrants. Within hours of the raid, they floated the story that the two were suicide bombers set to blow up one of the subway hubs in Brooklyn and the Long Island Railroad station. All of this was prior to the Khalil and Maizur being arraigned or having had secured legal counsel.
Maizur and Khalil were arraigned on bomb-conspiracy charges, surrounded by 15 federal cops in combat gear in a Brooklyn hospital where they are still recovering from their gunshot wounds.
The news media and federal and city authorities immediately tried to link the alleged bomb plot to the bombing of a market in Jerusalem that resulted in the deaths of 15 people. Despite statements by Hamas denying any connection to the alleged bomb plot in Brooklyn, and the lack of any other evidence, federal and local authorities are trying to link the two Palestinians in custody with some sort of international terrorist plot by that Palestinian organization.
Federal and local authorities have also tried to connect the supposed plot by Maizar and Khalil to the latest in the series of frame-up trials stemming from the World Trade Center bombings in 1993. These trials were slated to begin August 4, but have been postponed for several days. Ramzi Yousef is being tried as the alleged mastermind of the bombings, and Eyad Ismoil is charged with assisting in the alleged conspiracy.
New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other politicians have been using this case to attack the right of immigrants and refugees. Maizur had been detained when he entered the United States from Canada. According to the New York Times, he was given 60 days to leave the United States or be deported. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials say Maizar submitted an application for political asylum, based on his fear of repression from the Israeli authorities because he had been picked up in a roundup of Palestinian youth charged with throwing stones at Israeli troops and was falsely accused by Israeli authorities as having connections to Hamas.The INS said he later withdrew his application.
"Just why is it that this person was allowed to come into the country announcing that he is accused of being part of a terrorist group?" the mayor demanded.
The day after the raid, Giuliani was proudly campaigning in Brooklyn. He first went to a Jewish community to express his support for Tel Aviv. He then visited the Arab-American community to do damage control following the racist treatment meted out to Arab-American residents and anyone the cops thought might be Arab or Muslim.
As part of whipping up a vendetta against the accused men, the press here has given top billing to every detail of the apartment that housed Maizar, Khalil, and several other immigrant workers. The August 2 New York Post front-page screamed: "Inside the Terror Nest," with a kicker, "Brooklyn suicide bombers lived in squalor waiting to die." The apartment is described as a hovel, with little furniture, crumbling walls, piled up dirty dishes, and a near-empty and roach-infested refrigerator - a description of not a few apartments in this city. The Post also ran a picture of a hand-copied inscription from the Koran that had been taped to the refrigerator, as part of its anti-Arab tone.
The raid took place just blocks from the Pathfinder bookstore and offices of the Socialist Workers Campaign. On August 1, Shoghi Fret, the Socialist Workers candidate for public advocate, and this reporter went to the Arab community around Atlantic Avenue. A Palestinian student said that a regular customer in the electronics store he works at who thought he was Puerto Rican, offered the opinion that all Arabs should be jailed after the incident in Brooklyn.
Fret and a campaign supporter then went door-to-door in the community where the cop raid was conducted. Some workers expressed the opinion that the cops saved them from a horrendous bomb blast. Many, however, were open to listening to the socialists' views. Wayne Watson, a Black youth, said, "I'm not sure what I think about this."
Willie Rios, a 43-year-old Puerto Rican worker, however,
expressed outrage at the cops' action. "It was wrong. A lot
of people are mad and scared" about what happened, he said.
"You can't do it to people who have done nothing. They do it
brutally and they are using this for their own ends."
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home