Religious groups oppose NYPD surveillance

Christian ministers and Muslim leaders said Thursday they’re joining to oppose police surveillance of ethnic groups in New York City.

The Faith and Freedom Alliance includes Protestant pastors from mostly black congregations in New York, some of them veteran activists who were put under police surveillance during the civil rights protests of the 1960s. The group had its first meeting on Thursday at a church in Harlem.

A series of stories by The Associated Press revealed a secret program by the New York Police Department to infiltrate Muslim groups, eavesdrop on people in public places and document where ethnic groups eat, pray and even shop for groceries.

“There’s a lot of intimidation going on, a lot of unhealthy suspicion,” said John Scott, a member of the Baptist Ministers Conference of New York City.

Religious leaders said they were worried that the police surveillance program feeds an environment of distrust between ethnic groups. Scott likened it to FBI infiltration of black activist groups during the civil rights era.

“All of our phones were tapped. They had plants in all of our meetings,” Scott said. “When you begin to stereotype and stigmatize a particular group like that, you give those violent elements legitimacy – almost like they’re doing America a favor.”

Associated Press, 6 January 2012