University students gathered this weekend to protest recent findings that the NYPD has been spying on Muslim students. According to the AP, police informants have been going undercover in student groups to keep an eye on Muslim students at Columbia and other Northeast universities.
Documents obtained by the AP show that the NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups. An officer even went whitewater rafting with students and reported on how many times they prayed and what they discussed. Police also trawled college websites and blogs, compiling daily reports on the activities of Muslim students and academics.
The news sparked outrage amongst students and many university officials, who didn't know the NYPD was hanging out in campus clubs, trying to figure out how often Muslims pray. Columbia University president Lee Bollinger is hosting a "fireside chat" on Monday in response to the surveillance. He released a strongly worded statement Friday.
We should all be able to appreciate the deeply personal concerns of the Muslim members of our community in learning that their activities were being monitored — and the chilling effect such governmental efforts have on any of us in a university devoted to the foundational values of free speech and association.
Columbia's Muslim Students Association member Mona Abdullah spoke to the AP, and said that while she and her fellow students were initially "distressed and frazzled," they have banded together in response to police tactics. That solidarity remains important because the NYPD is probably still spying.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday: "We're going to continue to do what we have to do to protect the city."
He did not elaborate.
And students will not receive any sympathy from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has staunchly defended what he calls anti-terrorism measures. According to Bloomberg, the surveillance "is legal, it is appropriate, it is constitutional." No word on how much comfort that has provided to the students being monitored.