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Lawsuit alleges racial profiling, unlawful arrest at Detroit Metro airport

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

An Ohio woman who was arrested and strip searched at Detroit Metro Airport says her constitutional rights were violated.

The Michigan ACLU has now filed a federal lawsuit on Shoshanna Hebshi’s behalf.

Flying from California to Detroit on September 11, 2011, Hebshi says she was seated next to two men she didn’t know or speak to during the flight.

Those men were accused of behaving suspiciously during the flight. When they landed at Metro, Hebshi and the two men were arrested.

“I can only gather that I was targeted and forced at gunpoint off that
plane, handcuffed, and taken into custody for hours because of my ethnic name, and an arbitrary seat assignment,” said Hebshi, who is of
mixed Saudi Arabian and Eastern European-Jewish descent.

Hebshi and the ACLU are now suing federal agencies, airport officials
and Frontier Airlines. They allege her story is an example of
unconstitutional racial discrimination leading to false arrest and

“I’m extremely concerned about my children growing up in a country
where your skin color and name can put your rights at risk,” Hebshi

ACLU attorney Sarah Mehta says there have been a number of lawsuits
alleging racial discrimination against airlines since the September
11th, 2001 attacks.

“Generally, though, those claims have been about people being pulled off of planes for suspicious activity,” Mehta said. “What is unique about our client is that there are no allegations whatsoever about her involvement in anything suspicious.”

Hebshi is seeking monetary damages, and the court’s declaration that
her constitutional rights were violated.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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