An open letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

Dear AG Dave Yost,

Threatening to use the 1953 law (Anti-KKK law) against the 41 people who were arrested at OSU campus on April 25, is ludicrous to say the least.

If you think you could bluff the people whom your troops brutal arrested and subjected to degrading and humiliating experiences, so they will not sue the state for compensation, you are sadly mistaken.

If this "anti-disguise" law makes it a felony for a group of two or more protesters, then you only have a handful who were at the protest who were wearing face surgical masks or using "keffiyeh" (Palestinian victory scarf) to cover their faces. I was there and saw several Israeli counter-protesters who were taking pictures of the protesters, especially the activists. Those pictures go straight to Israel and the state of Israel has recently arrested Palestinian activists upon visiting their families back homes in Palestine.

Several months ago, former Presidential candidate Nikki Haley foolishly urged Americans to take names and pictures of pro-Palestinian protesters as if they were criminals. That was of course intended for blackmail and not to nominate them for an award, thus, appeasing the Israeli lobby in the US.

I have seen several Muslim female students who wear niqab (the face cover). Are you telling us that under your silly anti-disguise law you could arrest them with no question ask? You are dead wrong. The First Amendment's right and religious freedom protect those Muslim protesters from such abuse of power. You need to brush up on the law in Ohio before you issue a legal "fatwa." There are rules on the book in Ohio where you cannot ask a Muslim woman or force her to take her hijab even for a mugshot or for a driver's license. Your State Troopers could use refreshing course in ethnic sensitivity.

I am old enough to remember when two Muslim women from Cincinnati area who were able to get their driver's license photograph wearing hijab free of charge. Reason? A clerk at the bureau of the BMV wrongly demanded the women remove the hijab for the photo.

Tom Hunter, spokesman then for the Department of Public Transportation, sent a message to 216 state BMV offices informing them that wearing hijab while taking a photograph is allowed and legally exempt under Ohio law. Mr. Hunter stressed in his message that asking a Muslim woman to remove her hijab is like asking a non-Muslim woman to remove her shirt. (Chicago Tribune, 2007)

Mr. Hunter was a man of honor and integrity because he did issue an apology then as a good will gesture, he did not charge them for their driver's licenses. Compare and contrast this with this with your State Highway Patrol whom you unleashed like attack dogs on peaceful protesters. Your troops violently attacked the protesters at OSU while they were praying.

One young student suffered a severe concussion during her final's week.  While protesters were in custody, they were subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment among which:

  1. They have to wait 12 hours to use the restroom,
  2. Women were for strip search and were forced to take their hijab for mugshots,
  3. They were denied the right to pray,
  4. Muslim prisoners and one who was Jewish were denied halal and kosher food.

As an Attorney General, you are the chief of law enforcement, and your job is to enforce the law in the states and not use your office to threaten and blackmail the citizens or face serious charges if they choose to sue the OSU and State Highway Patrol. Anyone who plays poker will know that you're bluffing!

I know several of the protesters who were arrested, and I hold them in high regard. They are good and law-abiding citizens. I felt their pain when two of them publicly spoke about humiliating and degrading experiences in the Columbus City Hall and the Columbus Dispatch.

I am talking about the courageous Syrian American and faculty Dr. Somaya Hamadmad and OSU student leader Dalal Shalah as well as my friend OSU student Hana El Nemr from Egypt who delivered a passionate speech and read a poem about Gaza in a previous protest I attended. I never imagined I will see this vibrant young lady in a mugshot.

Yousuf Munir is another OSU student from Pakistani origin. I saw his mother outside Columbus City Council meeting with her eyes swollen red from crying while protesters were inside the chamber urging and pleading the Council to drop all the charges against the students.

Yousuf's mom is worried to death about the future of her son as the case in Dalal and Hana and the other students. Students should not be punished for exercising their First Amendment's right to free speech because OSU and your office disagree with their view for calling their universities to divest and sever ties with Israel due to the genocide in Gaza.

Sumaya Hamadmad is an OSU research scientist in the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science at the College of Medincine. Provided by Sumaya Hamadmad

Instead of escalating the situation and threatening to criminalize 41 students, faculty staff, and community members, you should drop all the charges and issue an apology to them. At this juncture, my advice to them is to find a ruthless and bloodthirsty lawyer who will go for the throat and sue your office, the State Troopers, as well as OSU. So, no Ohioan will have to go through what they did again.

It’s important to note that OSU students were being accused of disturbing the quiet time at the University during the final week and intimidating others. However, pro-Israeli thugs at ACLU attacked pro-Palestinian encampments with sticks and fireworks for over 3 hours with the riots police standing by.

Not one single arrest, no charges, no fine, no threat of suspension or expulsion. This pattern is the same throughout country. Pro-peace protesters are being under attack by the pro-genocide thugs, public officials, law enforcement, as well as the mainstream media. That is not the America I love and was willing to die for twenty years.

Mahmoud El-Yousseph is a Palestinian freelance writer and retired USAF veteran who lives in Westerville, Ohio. He could be reached at: [email protected]

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