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Charges Dropped: DA's office Backs Down Under Community Pressure

August 4, 1995. India Currents, pg. 19

On Monday, July 10, charges against New York cabbie organizer Saleem Osman were dropped by District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's office. The withdrawal came in the face of significant community pressure against what was a weak case from the start.

Osman, a staff organizer for the Lease Drivers Coalition of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), was given an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD). However, the DA'S office also forced Osman to make a statement of apology.

Over 40 community supporters, including many cab drivers, packed the courtroom while Osman and his attorney, Michael Deutsch, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, appeared with an Assistant District Attorney before Judge William Mogulescu.

"We feel really positive that community pressure forced them to this point," said Tamina Davar of CAAAV. The group has been organizing around this incident since May of last year.

Osman was doing his job last May by coming to the assistance of a cab driver, and was dragged out of his car by his hair and clothing and beaten by police officers. They told him, "There's no black mayor anymore, You better watch out..... Go back to your own country."

Osman will be pursuing a civil suit against the New York Police department. "Giving up is not part of my character," said the Islamabad-born organizer. "I'm a fighter."

This case shows that community pressure can have an impact on the justice system. A wide coalition of Asian, Latino, and African-American community leaders, politicians-including Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger and Council Member Tom Duane-and concerned community members continuously voiced their concerns to the DA's office throughout last year.

On Friday, July 7, over 100 supporters rallied at a press conference in support of Osman. Over the weekend, the DA's office was deluged with hundreds of phone calls and faxes from community members.

"This was truly a people's victory, and a tribute to the organizing success of CAAAV and its supporters," said Deutsch, Osman's attorney.

"The community responded wonderfully," Osman said, pointing to the many mainstream, South Asian, Chinese, Korean, and other media which drew attention to his case.

In New York city, as many as 60 percent of cab drivers are new immigrants of South Asian origin. In addition to being the butt of David Letterman's jokes, they suffer significant harassment and violence at the hands of police.

Osman says he will continue to protest cases of police brutality. In the case of Yong Xin Huang, a 16-year-old victim of police killing, the officer responsible for his death has yet to be indicted.

"Today I am free, but Yong Xin Huang is dead. When I put myself in his family's shoes, it is all darkness. His killer is still loose, and I want to bring him to justice."


Copyright 1995 India Currents.

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