SWAT Team Raids Home of Civil Rights Attorney Working on Voting Rights

Attorney Barbara Arnwine says that police officers held her at gunpoint for hours in a case of mistaken identity.

By Jorge Rivas Nov 29, 2011

Last Monday, attorney Barbara Arnwine was rudely awakened by the sounds of Prince George County’s SWAT team raiding her Maryland home at 5:30 am. Arnwine is the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who said she believes the officers entered her home without a warrant, and may have even had the wrong house.

"They held us at gunpoint for three hours," Arnwine told Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. on Sharpton’s radio show "Keepin’ It Real." "There is no justification for them operating like this. It’s totally unprofessional and unjustified."

"If they had a warrant and were targeting any of us then how could they not know our names and know how to spell them," Arnwine said to D.C radio station’s WPFW news anchor Askia Muhammad. "It looks like they were randomly looking, like they were on a fishing expedition. I honestly think they were looking for someone else. I honestly think they had the wrong address. I don’t think they had the right house, but I’ll never know because I never saw a warrant."

In the same interview with WPFW Arnwine said that the president was aware of the incident. "President Obama has heard about it and has e-mailed people asking, ‘What in the world is this?’"

Politics365.com describes scenes of Prince George County police questioning her honesty and education:

Arwine informed Rev. Sharpton that one of the members of the Prince George’s County Police Department was "taken aback" when she informed them she was an attorney and of basic fourth 4th Amendment rights.  Arnwine claims the officer responded that "the fourth Amendment doesn’t apply here."  She also said they didn’t believe she was an attorney and asked what school she attended and what year she graduated.  Arnwine is a graduate of Duke University School of Law.

Arnwine, an established attorney who’s practiced law for more than two decades, has most recently been working on identifying voter ID laws across states that could prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots in the upcoming 2012 election.

CrooksAndLiars points out the the timing of the raid seems a bit a suspect because just days earlier, she testified at a voter suppression summit.

On November 16, Arwine testified at a voter voter suppression summit to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and several other members of Congress alongside ACLU Legislative Director Laura Murphy. On June 13, Arnwine appeared with other civil rights leaders, including Wade Henderson and Rev. Jackson, at the National Press Club on voter suppression. On July 13, she appeared with Rev. Jackson Jr, and eight members of Congress on issues surrounding new Voter ID laws passed in several states. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Betty Sutton (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) spoke at the press conference along with Arnwine.

"If it can happen to her it can happen to anyone," Rev. Jackson said during the interview. Arnwine’s home is located in the wealthiest African American majority county in the nation, according to a 2006 Ebony magazine article, Politics365 points out.