Family Of Bombing Suspect Sued NJ City For Anti-Muslim Discrimination

The family of Ahmad Khan Rahami, who is suspected of planting bombs in Seaside Park, New Jersey and Manhattan over the weekend, sued the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey in 2011, claiming its restaurant was targeted by authorities because of their Muslim background.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, charged that Elizabeth police officers and residents who lived near the Rahamis’ First American Fried Chicken store “persisted in a course of conduct designed to intimidate and harass plaintiffs by reason of their religion and national identity and national origin.”

Family patriarch Mohammad R. Rahami, who is from Afghanistan, filed the lawsuit along with his two sons, Mohammad K. Rahami Jr. and Mohammad Q. Rahami. While Ahmad Rahami, who was taken into police custody Monday following a shootout, does not appear to be involved in the lawsuit, neighbors say he appeared to be training to take over for his father at the chicken shop, according to the New York Times. The restaurant’s Elmora Avenue location was listed as Ahmad Rahami’s most recent address, and it was raided Monday in connection with the weekend’s bombings.

In the suit, the Rahamis alleged that police unfairly issued them summonses and tickets on multiple occasions. A local ordinance required most businesses, with the exception of restaurants, to close at 10 p.m., but the Rahamis claimed police frequently came by to discipline them for keeping the restaurant open late.

In one incident, two of the Rahami sons were arrested, and one got into a fight with law enforcement officers while being taken into custody. Mohammad K. Rahami Jr. fled to his home country of Afghanistan before the case could be resolved, the Times reported.

The Rahamis charged that police also followed up with frivolous complaints filed against them by a neighbor named in the suit as a defendant, Dean McDermott, who allegedly made comments such as “Muslims don’t belong here” and “Muslims make too much trouble in this country.”

The defendants denied all of the allegations in a response to the complaint, saying the family’s “negligence” prompted the officers’ visits.

Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage told reporters on Monday that the City Council voted to close the restaurant at 10 p.m. over complaints from neighbors and that the charges of ethnic bias were unfounded.

“It was neighbor complaints, it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or religion,” the mayor said. “It had to do with noise and people congregating on the streets.”

The lawsuit is still active, although the family’s attorney recused herself in 2015.

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