A Muslim woman launched a legal action on Monday against police in California alleging that her headscarf was forcibly removed after she was arrested on outstanding warrants.
According to the complaint against the city of Long Beach and its police department, Kirsty Powell and her husband were pulled over by two officers while driving home in May of last year.
Powell, who is African American, alleges that while being booked at the police station, one of the officers forcibly removed her headscarf in view of other male officers and inmates, telling her she was not allowed to wear her hijab and that policemen were allowed to touch women.
The suit states that Powell “suffered and continues to suffer extreme shame, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress” as a result of her experience.
“The actions taken by the Long Beach police officers were unwarranted and a serious violation of Mrs Powell’s bodily integrity,” said Yalda Satar, attorney for the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed the suit on behalf of Powell.
“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,” she added.
The Long Beach Police Department and city officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The lawsuit, which seeks a jury trial and unspecified compensatory damages, comes as police in Los Angeles and San Francisco have come under scrutiny over racist and homophobic text messages and emails.
On Sunday, a senior official at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department stepped down after outrage over emails he sent three to four years ago mocking Muslims and others.
In San Francisco, several police officers have resigned or retired over racist text messages they exchanged among each other.