This should send a chill down your spine.
That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and I were on our way to see the Broadway show “Rent.” We had an hour to spare before curtain time so we stopped into an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square in the heart of midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant so as not to subject the owners to any further harassment or humiliation.
We helped ourselves to the buffet and then sat down to begin eating our dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how I’d eaten there before and how delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never got a chance. All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.
“Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant,” they yelled.
I hesitated, lost in my own panic.
“Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit down,” they demanded.
When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: “Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month.”
We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: “Go ahead and leave, just go ahead.”
We remained seated. Our IDs were taken, and brought to the officers with laptops. I was questioned over the fact that my license was out of state, and asked if I had “something to hide.” The police continued to hassle the kitchen workers, demanding licenses and dates of birth. One of the kitchen workers was shaking hysterically and kept providing the day’s date March 20, 2003, over and over.
As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. “We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety,” she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? “We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this.”
About a year or so ago, I remember reading some right wing asshat on a message board insisting that the innocent have nothing to worry about, there will be no abuses of power, yadda yadda yadda. I guess that particular moron now lives in the country he deserves; it’s just a shame the rest of us have to live there too.