Protest planned over imam’s death
Groups take issue with handling of case
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A growing number of African-American groups are expressing concern about the case of Luqman Ameen Abdullah, the Muslim cleric shot dead on Oct. 28 by FBI agents seeking to arrest him in a sting operation.
Linking his death to other victims of police shootings, several African-American groups plan to rally Saturday at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, the scene of a police shootout in 1969 involving a black nationalist group that sparked criticism.
Abdullah’s death has prompted complaints from advocacy groups about excessive force and profiling of poor minorities. Abdullah was African American, as were most of his followers, and he headed a mosque in a poor area.
The rally to raise awareness about Abdullah’s death is being organized by a host of groups, including the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, the Detroit Branch NAACP and the Detroit branch of Delta Sigma Theta, the largest African-American sorority.
On Sunday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson is to be the keynote speaker in Dearborn at the annual banquet for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“African Americans have a long history of being victims of excessive force by law enforcement,” said Dawud Walid, who is African American and director of the Islamic group. “And so that history, coupled with the circumstances behind the imam’s death, has triggered an organic response.”
Last month, the national office of the NAACP, along with the group Muslim Advocates, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that criticized FBI agents for how they handled the case, including their use of informants. Special Agent Sandra Berchtold said she had no comment Thursday about the case. In the past, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit FBI office Andrew Arena has said that agents acted appropriately in the case.
Caree Eason, with the Wayne and Oakland County branch of the National Action Network, headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, plans to attend Saturday’s rally.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Eason said.