Mom Arrested for Blocking Sidewalk While Waiting for Family to Use Bathroom
MIDTOWN — A mother and former top government lawyer waiting for her husband and kids to use the bathroom at a Times Square restaurant was arrested for blocking the sidewalk, in what she calls an attempt by the NYPD to target her for being Muslim, according to a pending lawsuit.
Chaumtoli Huq, 42, a human rights lawyer and former general counsel for Public Advocate Letitia James, said she had just left a pro-Palestinian rally in Times Square on July 19 with her husband and two young children when they stopped to use the bathroom at Ruby Tuesday at 41st Street and Seventh Avenue.
Huq said she was standing just inches from the front of the restaurant waiting for her husband, Marvin Cabrera, and her 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter when Officer Ryan Lathrop and another officer approached her and demanded she clear the sidewalk.
"I'm not in anybody's way. Why do I have to move? What's the problem?" she told police, according to the criminal complaint.
Huq said there was plenty of room for pedestrians to walk between her and the protesters, who were penned in along Seventh Avenue.
She said the officers pinned her against the wall, prompting her to say, “I can’t move, I can’t move.”
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But Lathrop claimed in a criminal complaint that Huq refused to move when directed to do so. She was arrested.
“At that point I didn’t know what was happening. I was just thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ and all of a sudden the officer flips me [around]…he [turns] my body and presses me against the wall of the restaurant,” Huq said. “He shoved my left arm all the way and kept pushing it and handcuffed me. At that point I just like instinctively yelled, ‘Help!’ because I was alone. I screamed, ‘Help!’"
Lanthrop said in court papers that Huq flailed her arms and twisted her body when he was handcuffing her.
"I’m not resisting arrest. My husband took my kids to the bathroom in Ruby Tuesday," Huq said she told the officers.
Huq, who was appointed James’ general counsel in December, had just taken a nine-month leave of absence the day before the rally to advocate for improved factory conditions in Bangladesh, she said.
Huq, who has a nose ring and was wearing a traditional Indian tunic and pants on the day of her arrest, said she believes officers targeted her because she is Muslim and South Asian.
She added that officers went through her purse without probable cause before taking her to the Midtown South Precinct — all while her family was still inside the restaurant.
Huq’s husband and children were notified by another officer and eventually came looking for her at the precinct, according to her federal civil rights suit, which is expected to be filed Tuesday.
Officers offered to deliver Huq's purse and personal items out to her husband, but then became suspicious when she told the officer his last name was different than hers, according to the lawsuit.
"In America wives take the names of their husbands,” the officer told her according to court papers.
She was held for more than nine hours in lockup before being arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, court records show.
She said she agreed to have the case adjourned and not get arrested again within the next six months in exchange for a dismissal.
Huq also filed a complaint with the NYPD’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, the CCRB confirmed. And she plans to file a federal lawsuit against the NYPD, arguing that her arrest was part of a pattern of harassment of Muslims by police.
“My civil rights were violated. I think that I was treated differently because of being a woman,” she said. “I think I was targeted once my husband left. I think that I was being targeted based on my religion and my race.”
“I went from being a mother to a prisoner and so I can’t imagine mothers who experience their children or their boys having such an experience with police officers,” Huq said. “That shouldn’t be the case in New York.”
The police department did not respond to an email seeking comment.