Student threatened and forced to remove hijab in downtown Ann Arbor

Saturday, November 12, 2016 - 2:52pm

Update: On Dec. 21, the Ann Arbor Police Department issued an updated report that the crime alleged below did not occur. The report cited a number of discrepancies between eyewitness testimonies and surveillence tapes of the scene. The University of Michigan Department of Public Safety and Security released a cancellation of the original press release detailing the alleged hate crime.

A female student was approached by a man between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday and told if she did not remove her hijab, he would set her on fire with a lighter, according to a University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security crime alert released Saturday morning.

The woman complied with his request to remove her hijab and then left. She reported the incident to the Ann Arbor Police Department.

The University alert described the incident as an intimidation crime. It occurred on East William Street near State Street.

As described by witnesses, the suspect was a white male between the ages of 20 and 30. He was reported to have been intoxicated with slurred speech.
 
UMPD spokesperson Diane Brown said officers are saddened by the incident and are taking precautions in the area where it occurred. 
 
"Police officers with both the city and the University Police Department are disturbed by this report of hate crime in our community," she said. "Officers are conducting additional patrols of the area and anyone who might have information, who witnessed the incident, or information about the suspect are strongly encouraged to contact the Ann Arbor Police, as they are actively investigating this incident."
 
Some students on Facebook questioned why the crime alert wasn't released sooner, as the incident occurred early Friday evening and the report was not sent until Saturday afternoon. Central Student Government President David Schaefer responded to one post about these concerns saying he aims to be a part of solving this issue.
 
"Micah [Griggs] and I will be meeting with UMPD and Housing Security on Monday to discuss this," he wrote on Facebook. "This will not go unrecognized nor will this be forgotten."
 
Brown said the crime alert took longer to release because AAPD thought they may have found a lede.
 
"We were working together on it," she said. "The Ann Arbor Police thought they might have had a lede but today since they didn't have it solved, we felt strongly we needed to get this information to our community."

Following Election Day and President-elect Donald Trump’s win, similar incidents targeting minorities have been reported across the country, including at the University of Pennsylvania in which Black freshman found racist messages on their phones Friday after being added to a threatening GroupMe. In Michigan, similar incidents have also occurred in Royal Oak and Dewitt. In Royal Oak, students were filmed chanting “build a wall” in their school’s cafeteria. In Dewitt, school officials are investigating reports from Dewitt Junior High School of students chanting racist phrases and linking arms to form a “wall”.

A protest and vigil were held at the University the day after the election on the Diag, where nearly 1,000 students and community members gathered and spoke out against the president-elect. During the Diag event and at others in the past few days, students on campus have expressed fear for their safety, citing the rhetoric Trump used to discuss minorities and specifically Muslims and saying it is both offensive and hateful.