The day Alaa Massri was arrested during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Miami, she had taken on the role of medic and tended to protesters injured during a clash with police.
The 18-year-old Miami Beach resident saw someone struck by a police car during demonstrations on June 10, and when she went to offer help, she was stopped and arrested by Miami police officers.
Massri was booked at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on charges of battery on law enforcement, resisting an officer with violence, and disorderly conduct. An arrest report alleges that Massri punched an officer in the right bicep when the officer grabbed her to remove her from an intersection where 60 people were protesting.
Massri disputes the charges and, in an online petition that has garnered nearly 100,000 signatures, calls for them to be dropped. Massri also claims Miami police and Miami-Dade corrections officers showed disregard toward her faith when they arrested her. In the petition, Massri alleges that corrections officers removed her hijab after she was booked, forcing her to take a mugshot without it. (NBC News first reported the story.)
“As a Muslim, Ms. Massri is required to cover her hair with a traditional headscarf (hijab),” the protest reads. “She repeatedly made officers aware of this fact, yet they still removed her hijab in front of male police officers (completely disrespecting her way of life). They also took her mugshot with her hijab off and distributed it to news outlets (further spreading the lack of compassion they had for her).”
Reached by New Times, Massri declined to be interviewed, citing her lawyer’s advice. Massri’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment from New Times.
Critics say the removal of Massri’s hijab may have violated her freedom of religion.