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Muslim Woman Suing Long Beach Police For Forcibly Removing Her Hijab, Complaint Says

Kirsty Powell (Photo courtesy of CAIR-LA)
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A Muslim woman has filed a lawsuit against the City of Long Beach and the Long Beach Police Chief, alleging that police forcibly removed her hijab (a religious headscarf).

According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Kirsty Powell and her husband Deshawn Smith were pulled over by two male Long Beach Police Department officers while driving home in May 2015 and Powell was arrested on suspicion of an outstanding warrant.

Powell wears her hijab, which covers her hair, ears, neck and part of her chest, whenever she is in public, or when she is in the presence of men outside her immediately family, in accordance with her religious beliefs.

After officers handcuffed Powell and led her to the car, she said officers informed that her husband could either remove her hijab (as her hands were cuffed), or it would be removed by officers once they got back to the station, according to the complaint which was filed on behalf of Powell by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

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The complaint states she and her husband made repeated requests for a female officer to be made available but they were denied, and a male officer ultimately forcibly stripped Powell of her hijab in full view of other male officers and inmates.

Powell, who was held overnight, was forced to appear in her booking photo without her hijab. According to the suit, Powell was further distressed by the fact that the booking photo is now a part of the public record, permanently available to all. The hijab wasn't returned to her until approximately 1:30 p.m. the next day, when her husband posted bail.

CAIR-LA Civil Rights attorney Yalda Satar told the Press-Telegram that at least four female officers were at the police station and available to remove Powell's hijab at the time of her arrest.

"The manner in which Mrs. Powell was treated by LBPD officers was simply a show of authority over a woman of color who was unable to protect herself, and is another example of the type of discrimination faced by women who wear a hijab," Satar said in a press release.