Thank You Vijay Shah!

The 2008 Republican National Convention was held in St. Paul, Minnesota. My father-in-law (Hi Bob!) mentioned walking around outside the XCel Energy Center, checking out the protesters. Knowing my father-in-law's feelings regarding his Constitutional rights, particularly his Second Amendment rights, he may have had a concealed weapon on his person at the time. My reaction to hearing he walked around the protests was something like: "Careful, they may think you are a terrorist." And, of course, his response to this was to chuckle. After all, who would ever imagine that a 74 year old, American male of Norwegian and Swedish (and, he claims, Prussian) descent could possibly be a terrorist?

I love my father-in-law, but I am sometimes baffled by the confidence he has and the freedom he enjoys. I wish that all Americans, myself included, could feel such confidence and enjoy such freedom.

I went to college with Vijay Shah. He was one of those people I considered a friend, though we didn't have much in common. Vijay was a really nice person, not snarky or cynical, and I didn't value kindness so much back then. I mean, Vijay was born and raised in Ohio, he was such the earnest midwesterner and I was trying so hard to be cool, what could we possibly have to talk about beyond the thesis advisor we shared (Doug Fix) and us both being of Indian descent?

Luckily, we have been able to keep in touch via Facebook.

Back in 2004, Vijay was arrested while protesting at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He was one of three men of Indian descent to be detained during the Democratic National Convention. It is hard not to conclude that he was the victim of racial profiling and his constitutional rights were repeatedly violated. Vijay filed a lawsuit against the law enforcement officers who detained him and it went to trial last week. The jury ruled on Saturday.

The Secret Service Agent was found liable for violating Vijay's constitutional rights.

Please take the time to listen to Vijay describe his arrest and trial here (it is the 3/13 Sounds of Dissent Show, 11 a.m, beginning around the 39 minute mark). It is shocking.

If we hadn't gone to school with one another, I never would know about this. The other men who were arrested chose not to file a lawsuit. There aren't a whole lot of articles about Vijay's arrest or lawsuit archived on the internet. Which makes me wonder how often this sort of thing is happening and we never know about it, either because the victims don't speak up or there just isn't a lot of attention paid to these cases by the mainstream media.

As a person of Indian descent, I feel like what happened to Vijay could have happened to me. Well, alright, I don't really think it could happen to me. I suspect that my gender, my light skin, and the fact that Julian is with me wherever I go renders me less suspicious. But what if it doesn't? I mean, up until the moment the unidentified agents were pushing Vijay down the alleyway and slapping handcuffs on him, he believed that as a law abiding citizen, he was not a person of interest. Without a doubt it could happen to my brother.

As an American, I feel an enormous amount of gratitude towards Vijay for standing up for the Constitutional Rights that are guaranteed to every single one of us.

Justice prevails!


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