Three Muslim mothers and their eight children were denied the right to board a New York ferry back in September after workers claimed there was a "security issue."
According to the discrimination complaint filed on Wednesday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, the ferry staff were reportedly informed by security not to let the families on. The head of security displayed confusion later on when told about the allegation.
Two of the three mothers had pronounced accents - due to their Pakistani descents - and two were wearing hijabs. All the complainants are Muslim-American.
"These families were humiliated and traumatized in public view and treated as suspect because they happen to be Muslim. That is unacceptable," Ahmed Mohamed, the CAIR lawyer representing this case, said in a statement.
Earlier in the day - Sept. 21, 2019 - the three families had been able to take the ferry from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Wall Street with no hiccups. It was a different story when they decided to take a second ferry heading to Brooklyn's Pier 6. After waiting for two hours, they were finally allowed to board the ferry. Having given up on what was meant to be a fun day in the city, the families headed back to Bay Ridge.
They were left feeling humiliated and embarrassed in front of a ferry full of passengers — one that had left without them.
According to the report, one staff member spoke to them in a "rude, unprofessional, and raised voice." After some probing from the mothers, she told them that all this was due to the children standing on the seats during the previous ferry ride; an excuse that was seen as an "after-the-fact false excuse" for the discriminatory acts.
On their way back to Bay Ridge, they spoke to a crew member they had met on their first ride that day. She was shocked at the way the families had been treated.
The NYC Ferry - operated by HNY Ferry, LLC through a contract with the NYC Economic Development Corporation - claimed the entire incident was a "misunderstanding" and offered to reimburse them for the fares.
However, CAIR and the involved families are asking for a formal apology from the ferry workers who acted in a discriminatory manner. They also demanded compensation for the "humiliation, embarrassment and severe emotional distress" that both the adults and children were put through.
"We are aware of the complaint and are currently investigating the incident," the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) said in a statement. "NYCEDC takes these matters seriously, and is committed to ensuring that no person is denied the services based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, gender identity or disability."