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Las Vegas police denied woman access to hijab, lawsuit claims

A woman sued the Metropolitan Police Department this week, alleging that officers denied her access to her hijab when she was detained in 2022, until she had to use her own bra as a head covering.

The lawsuit was filed in District Court on Wednesday by attorneys Ayesha Mehdi and Athar Haseebullah, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, on behalf of Laura Griffin. The complaint alleged that when Griffin was detained by Las Vegas police in May 2022 as part of an eviction removal order, they denied her access to her hijab head covering and cut off her waist beads, which she used in her religious practice.

Griffin alleged that police would not give her the head covering, even though her son tried to give it to her as she was being detained. She was then taken to the Clark County Detention Center and held for several hours before she was released without being charged.

“Eventually, after she was thoroughly humiliated and placed in a cell, Plaintiff removed her own bra from her body and wrapped it around her head in a last-ditch effort to comply with her faith,” according to the lawsuit.

Griffin is Muslim and had been wearing a hijab while in the presence of men not related to her for more than a decade, the lawsuit said.

The complaint alleges that officers had no basis to deny Griffin her head covering and that Metro is failing to maintain adequate policies regarding religious accommodations.

Las Vegas police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

According to the lawsuit, police arrived at Griffin’s apartment in May 2022 with an eviction removal order. Griffin believed that the order had been stayed due to court proceedings, and she went inside her room to contact a mediator and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, the lawsuit said.

After several minutes, police “kicked in the door” to remove her from the home, and a male officer pulled Griffin’s hair while attempting to remove her from the room, according to the complaint.

Griffin told police she was Muslin and needed her hijab. One of the officers said he would give her the head covering if she put her hands behind her back, the lawsuit said.

But when Griffin’s son brought her the hijab, the officers refused to give it to Griffin, and handcuffed her instead.

When one officer asked the other officer if he should get the hijab, the officer “replied negatively,” and Griffin was shut inside the police car, the lawsuit said.

“Between her forcible removal from her house to the time the car door was closed as described above, Plaintiff asked Defendants for her religious head covering more than thirty times,” attorneys wrote in the complaint.

When Griffin was taken to the jail, she asked for a supervisor or a clergy to help her acquire a head covering, but neither spoke to her, the lawsuit said.

Officers then “held her down” and removed a set of her waist beads, which Griffin had worn as part of her religious practice for more than three years.

“Plaintiff maintains a sincerely held religious belief that her wearing of these waist beads ensures she remains connected to her ancestors and that the beads protect their wearer from evil, the complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges that the jail does not have a policy that clearly addresses the “permissibility of affixed religious items,” such as waist beads.

According to the lawsuit, Griffin was not told why she was being detained and was kept in a cell for several hours, during which she used her own bra as a head covering.

The lawsuit is requesting a judge issue a declaratory judgment finding that Metro’s policies and practices violated Griffin’s rights. Griffin is also requesting non-economic and punitive damages, according to the complaint.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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