Constitutional Law

Former top NYC lawyer sues police department, says she was arrested for standing on a sidewalk


A former top lawyer for New York City is suing the municipality’s police department. She says she was arrested for simply standing on a public sidewalk in Times Square this summer as she waited for her husband and children to return from using the restroom at a nearby restaurant.

Chaumtoli Huq, 42, had been working as general counsel to the city’s public advocate, but took a leave of absence because she planned to accept a fellowship in her native Bangladesh to work on human rights issues. She says that at the time of the July 19 incident, she and her family had just left a pro-Palestinian rally and she was wearing a traditional tunic and nose ring. Protesters reportedly were behind barriers a short distance away, on Seventh Avenue near 41st Street.

When told by officers to move on, Huq says, she explained that she was waiting for her family and questioned why she couldn’t just stay where she was. Suddenly, she was being pushed against a wall, arrested and handcuffed, and the officers searched her purse, according to DNA Info New York and the Gothamist.

In a Manhattan federal civil rights suit filed Tuesday, Huq contends her arrest was wholly unprovoked and “characteristic of a pattern and practice of the NYPD in aggressive overpolicing of people of color and persons lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” reports the New York Daily News. The suit seeks changes in city policing policy as well as unspecified damages, the New York Post notes.

Representatives of the city said they are reviewing the suit, and an internal review of police handling of the incident is ongoing.

Huq spent nine hours in custody after her arrest, and was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration. Huq accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, and the charges will be dismissed if she stays out of trouble in the following few months, the Daily News reports.

Attorney Rebecca Heinegg represents Huq in that case. She told the Daily News that her client accepted the deal because Huq didn’t feel she could effectively fight the case during her fellowship in Bangladesh.

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