Posted Dec. 5, 2007 – An African-American honcho at a leading rights group says he was stopped and questioned by Massachusetts State Police without justification while on his way to a meeting on racial profiling.
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Ironically, King Downing, an attorney, heads the ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling. In a lawsuit, Downing said he was stopped by a state trooper and asked to show ID after he left the gate area of Boston’s Logan Airport and made a phone call in the terminal in October 2003. He said he declined and was told to leave the airport.
Shortly afterward, he was stopped again, only this time he was surrounded by troopers and arrested for failure to show identification, The Associated Press reports. Downing then agreed to show his driver’s license; after he showed the license, officers demanded to see his airline ticket. After showing his ticket, he was allowed to leave the airport, and no charges were filed.
Downing has gone to federal court to challenge screening techniques he says are inherently discriminatory – the reliance on appearance and supposed suspicious behavior – that attempt to nab potential terrorists.
Named in his suit, which premiered in U.S. District Court Monday, are the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan, and the state police, who he contends violated his constitutional right against unreasonable search.
He seeks unspecified damages.
Downing, who wears a short beard, was stopped "for no apparent reasons other than his appearance," Peter Krupp, one of his attorneys, told AP.
"He knew his rights, and he knew he had done nothing wrong."
Months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks – which involved two planes being hijacked from Logan – the airport was the first to roll out a “"Behavior Assessment Screening System," under which allows police can question anyone it deems is suspicious. Since then, the Transportation Security Administration has the program in more than 40 of the nation’s largest airports.
Officials at Logan say race had nothing to do with the questioning of Downing, noting that the first officers to ask him for ID was Black, as were three of the four troopers who later surrounded him, court documents show.
"We welcome the opportunity to defend the program in court," Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for the Port Authority, told AP.
Does Downing make a good point, or should airport officials have the right to stop anyone, based on 9/11? Click "Discuss Now" to post your comment.