A police officer in Washington, D.C. is being investigated after he allegedly threatened to handcuff a woman because she would not remove her hijab at a public library.
Collective Action for Safe Spaces Interim Executive Director Jessica Raven told DCist that her “jaw dropped” when she heard the officer harassing the woman at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library on Wednesday.
“I was within a foot of the woman who was harassed,” Raven recalled. “All I heard was he started asking her to take off her hijab. My jaw dropped.”
“The man next to her spoke up, but the officer continued to harass her,” she added. “Ultimately he came towards her in an intimidating way, pulled out his handcuffs and said if she didn’t want to take off [the hijab], she had to leave.”
Raven explained to WTOP that the officer “didn’t explicitly say that he was going to arrest her, but he did have his handcuffs in his hand in an intimidating way.”
Eric Robinson, who witnessed the incident, told WJLA that he was “enormously angry about it,” noting that the officer initially called the woman’s hijab a “hoodie.”
D.C. Public Library spokesman George Williams confirmed that the officer had been removed from duties pending the outcome of an investigation. Williams said that the library was trying to locate the woman to offer her an apology.
The library declined to identify the officer, but a badge number recorded by Raven matches an officer who was fired after pleading guilty for destroying a citizen’s property in 1990. He was eventually rehired because the Metropolitan Police Department took too long to punish him.
The Council on American Islamic Relations praised the library’s quick response, but said that the incident could be seen as a symptom of Islamophobia in the United States.