In response to the slew of stories of the NYPD spying on just about anyone for no reason at all, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has launched a mass Freedom of Information Law campaign — GO FOIL YOURSELF — to help individuals find out if they have their own NYPD file - and what it contains.
Individuals across the Northeast have contacted us about finding out whether the NYPD is spying on them,” said Nermeen Arastu, staff attorney at AALDEF. “The reports about widespread secret surveillance have left many Muslims and non-Muslims wondering what they can do to create change and advocate for their rights. With GO FOIL YOURSELF, there can now be strength in numbers. If the NYPD is secretly collecting information on you, you have the right to request that information. The more requests that are filed, the stronger the message sent to the NYPD.”
NYPD police have spied on mosques, Muslim student groups, progressive political groups and individual activist and schools. “The NYPD sent undercover agents on student group outings, spied on primary schools, attached cameras to telephone poles outside of religious spaces and sent officers to states across the Northeast, to cities as far away as New Orleans and to foreign countries,” said Colorlines.com’s Seth Freed Wessler, who’s covered the NYPD spying scandal extensively.
“The problem with the NYPD is clearly systemic. They have never met a boundary they are not willing to cross; whether that is the right to privacy, or the right to not be racially profiled, or the right to not be shot if you are unarmed,” said Jordan Flaherty, a Colorlines.com contributor and journalist with al-Jazeera, who recently found out the NYPD traveled to Louisiana to spy on him.
“We need radical change in the very idea of what policing means, and the first step in that is knowing how deep the problem is. Mass number of FOIL requests, especially from the communities who have been targeted, is an important first step in this struggle,” Flaherty told Colorlines.com.
“The actions of our government, including police, are supposed to be transparent, the first step in holding this department accountable is restoring some of this transparency. In this case, knowledge is definitely power.”
Are you ready to GO FOIL YOURSELF? Visit the GFY webpage for FAQs on how to file a FOIL and download blank FOIL templates to get started.