Jersey City, NJ– Filipino groups are outraged over what many are calling “a blatant act of police brutality, racial discrimination, and anti-immigrant sentiment” on the part of two Jersey City police officers who arrested and detained a young Filipino who was about to file a complaint against an erring cab driver.
Alan James Alda, 25, a Jersey City warehouse worker originally from Manila, was startled when police suddenly “arrested and threw him into a detention cell” at approximately 3 am on Saturday after he asked for the names of the two police officers who rudely dismissed his complaint against cab driver for overcharging fare.
The two police officers were later identified as Sgt. Dennis Halleran and Officer A. Nunez of the Jersey City Police Department.
Alda and two of his young Filipino friends had gone to the Jersey City Police Department Precinct near Manila Avenue to report on a cab driver for overcharging fare and demanding upfront payment.
â€œWe went up to the two police officers in order to file a complaint against the cab driver but instead we were rudely told to start walking home,â€ stated Arcy Yuson, Aldaâ€™s companion at the time.
After dismissing their complaint, Alda asked the police officers for their names. It was then that the tide shifted. “Alan was physically grabbed by the cops and arrested”, Yuson explained. “We were shocked.”
The two police officers threatened Aldaâ€™s companions with arrest but eventually left them standing outside the police precinct as they took Alda in.
â€œWe didnâ€™t know what was going on. We stood there waiting for Alan to come back out. After a while 2 unidentified officers came out without Alan, but this time holding batons. It was an intimidation meant for us,â€ Yuson recalled.
Once in custody of the Jersey City police, sources claim that the Nunez and Halleran continued to intimidate Alda, with another unidentified officer even going as far as asking if he was a “terrorist” after they found foreign currency in his pocket.
During this time, Alda remained uninformed by the authorities of the charges against him, even as he sat in jail. He would later be released later that morning. When asked by an attending officer what he had learned from the whole experience, he was told to shut up immediately by surrounding officials upon his attempt to answer.
When asked by Alda if this would affect his right to find work, the officers shouted, “Hell, yeah!”.
It was shortly after that Alda became aware of his charges upon receipt of a slip of paper that stated police complaints of so-called “disorderly conduct” and “resisting arrest”.
“Alan never resisted arrest or created a physically threatening situation for the cops. Why would he? We went to the police precinct to file a complaint. We went there looking for help!” Yuson stated.
“The police seemed to be more interested in insulting these three Filipino immigrants rather than helping them. Alan and his companions were simply asserting their right to police protection, a move which landed Alan a night in a jail cell,” stated Nicholas Cordero, an organizer for Anakbayan, a Filipino youth group based in Jersey City, of which Alda is also a member.
“The police were out of line. Alan’s only crime was that he was Filipino, brown-skinned, and obviously foreign-born. Like many other immigrants of color, this is the treatment we receive from the public servants whose paychecks are supplied by our tax dollars to protect and serve. But more often than not, it is the police that end up threatening our rights and welfare.” Cordero said.
“The police must be held accountable for this. Their conduct was absolutely unacceptable and must not be tolerated.” stated Cristina Godinez, New York attorney and Immigrant Rights Coordinator of the Philippine Forum, an immigrant rights advocacy organization in Queens. â€œI am concerned about the reckless disregard for an immigrantâ€™s civil rights and the rash suspicion that he is a terrorist.â€
Cordero asserted that “criminal brutality and racial profiling” by the Jersey City police officers against Alda that night is not an isolated case. “It’s a common reality for young Filipinos in Jersey City. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, especially in light of the immigrant-scapegoating climate post 9/11. What’s important is that we unite as a community to speak out against these injustices when they happen. We will not stay silent as long as this type of repression exists.”
Anakbayan, along with allied local organizations Philippine Forum and the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines are convenors of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition, which is embarking on a campaign to 1) have the charges against Alda dropped 2) file counter-charges against the police for criminal misconduct and 3) educate and facilitate community action with more Filipino youth and immigrants on police brutality, racial profiling, and anti-immigrant conduct.
“Filipinos are largely a low-income minority group, and over 60% of all the Filipinos in the US are foreign-born. Alan’s abuse by the police is every young Filipino’s concern. It could have happened to any one of us.” Cordero continued.
When asked about coming forward about his story, Alda mentioned “hindi para lang sa akin eto, para sa mga ibang kabataang migrante din. [this is not just for me, but for all migrant youth].”
An emergency Anakbayan meeting where Alda will be available to discuss the details of his arrest to the public and to the media is scheduled on Saturday, February 25, 1pm-3pm at 605 Pavonia Avenue, #42 (near Summit Avenue) in Jersey City. THIS IS AN OPEN MEETING AND ALL ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND, ESPECIALLY FILIPINO YOUTH AND IMMIGRANTS.
For more information on the Justice For Immigrants campaign for Alan James Alda, email Anakbayan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-479-1605.