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Chicago's Arab American community launches campaign to end racial profiling after report documenting unfounded accusations of suspicious activity

Chicago's Arab American community launches campaign to end racial profiling
Chicago's Arab American community launches campaign to end racial profiling 02:54

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Following a story we broke Thursday night on CBS 2, Chicago's Arab American community is demanding police end the use of suspicious activity reporting after a groundbreaking study found the reports were being used as tool for racial profiling. 

We gave you the first exclusive look at the findings from the report Thursday night. 

Read the full report here at AAAN's website, or below

Final AAAN Report by Adam Harrington on Scribd

On Friday, the Arab American Action Network officially launched their Campaign to End Racial Profiling. 

And as CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, getting a response from law enforcement has been more difficult than you might think. 

For generations, they've feared discrimination and police surveillance based on who they are and what they look like. Now, the Arab American Action Network, or AAAN, says its new analysis finally confirms those fears – with data. 

The AAAN got their hands on 235 "suspicious activity reports", or SARs for short, from the Chicago Police Department and Illinois State Police – made between 2016 and 2019. They discovered a disturbing pattern.   

"Middle eastern, olive skinned, Arab, or Muslim – we're talking over 50 percent of these reports," said Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer for AAAN.

More than half of the reports described "suspects" of Arab descent – which is significant in a state like Illinois, where Arab Americans make up just over 1 percent of the population.  

And it's not just Arab Americans – about 70 percent of all reports identified people of color.  Many of the reports were for everyday activities like taking photos in public — or just speaking another language. 

"It's like hard proof that you know we're not just making this up," said Nadiah Alyafai, a member of the AAAN. "This is actually happening."

State police and the FBI told us laws prohibit them from investigating any matter based solely on race or ethnicity. Hickey asked Sankari if the AAAN report conflicts with that claim.

"The proof is in the pudding, right?" Sankari said. "Why is it that 50 percent of these reports, over 50, are targeting less than 1.5 percent of Illinois state population from a particular nationality or religious group? There's no answer."

ISP and the FBI wouldn't do on camera interviews, and the CPD never even responded to our multiple requests. There was still nothing from them on Friday.

The AAAN says they haven't had productive conversations with law enforcement either. And now they're calling for answers. 

"We are not asking. We are demanding," Sankari said. "We will keep fighting until we end SARs across Illinois." 

In terms of what that campaign will look like, AAAN says they're going to do townhall meetings and accountability sessions with police – and ask that they prove that their policing does not target Arabs and Muslims. 

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