ACLU Case No. 16-08
The ACLU of Colorado filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Omar Hassan, a black man who was forcibly removed from a coffee shop by two Aurora Police officers who told him, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.”
According to the lawsuit, on March 16, 2016, Hassan entered a Caribou Coffee in Aurora and approached the counter to purchase a muffin. He had just finished a night shift at work and was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants, and work boots.
Aurora police officers Machelle Williby and Lisa Calcamuggio took notice of him and stood close behind him as he ordered. They then followed him to a table, stood directly over him with their hands placed on their guns, and commanded him to leave.
When Hassan asked why he was being told to leave, Officer Williby responded, “Your kind of business is not welcome here.” Hassan then asked, “Who says that?” Officer Williby motioned her head toward the counter and said, “They do.”
Management, however, made it clear that the police officers were acting on their own. Employees of the coffee shop did not ask police to remove Hassan, nor had there been any complaints about him, according to a signed affidavit from the manager on duty at the time of the incident.
According to the ACLU complaint, “Mr. Hassan’s experience in discrimination is unique in its reflection of both historical and modern-day racism. His dress, including a hoodie, made him a particular target as a black man in the current environment. Officer Williby then vocalized her prejudice by telling Mr. Hassan his ‘kind’ was not welcome at the coffee shop, a statement steeped in historical racism.”
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Hassan is represented by Silverstein, as well as ACLU staff attorneys Rebecca T. Wallace and Arash Jahanian.
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