In a sweeping lawsuit that eerily summarizes much of the paranoia and xenophobia gripping the U.S. since September 2001, Ahmed Al-Menhali has filed a civil complaint against a spectrum of Marriott business properties (like Fairfield Inn), a number of Avon police officers and two hotel clerks. Read the full complaint below.
You'll recall that in June 2016
Avon police were called to the Fairfield Inn and Suites yesterday after a woman reported a man "in full head dress with multiple disposable phones pledging his allegiance to ISIS" in the hotel lobby. Officers arrived to find the man speaking Arabic and wearing a long white robe.
And so the police officers drew their guns and ordered the man to get on the ground. He was handcuffed and searched, though no weapons were found.
The hotel clerk, named as defendant Alexis Silva in the lawsuit, walked back her ISIS story once police arrived. The whole story was very difficult to parse, but, basically, the clerk panicked, and her sister and father called the police on her behalf and ascribed an ISIS connection to the situation. (Silva later denied sending any text messages to her sister or father and mentioning ISIS, but the ensuing investigation easily proved that she did
make the ISIS implication first, according to the lawsuit.)
Al-Menhali, meanwhile, had collapsed during the rough police search and was later taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. (Al-Menhali had undergone open heart surgery just a few months prior. He was in Northeast Ohio specifically for treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.) The United Arab Emirates, his home country, immediately issued a travel warning to citizens, warning them "to avoid wearing traditional garments when traveling abroad." Western society, of course, has been developing from a place of fear for many years now, and travelers were put on the defensive.
This week, though, Al-Menhali filed a formal suit against the involved actors. After the bizarre and unwarranted chaos at the Fairfield Inn, Al-Menhali sums up his legal argument with the nut of the case: "When Plaintiff Al-Menhali was arbitrarily arrested and the police pinned him the floor, he felt an incredible amount of pain which he believes is related to his heart surgery. He also suffered symptoms of a stroke and was hospitalized several days. [His] violent arrest and the false allegations against him were widely publicized around the world. As a result, Plaintiff suffered great reputational harm and lost lucrative business."
The mayor of Avon issued a public apology, but Al-Menhali's lawsuit closes with a stinging global rejoinder: "In spite of the apology, this Islamophobic episode further exposes the dark, racist underbelly of America thriving under the guise of security."
Al-Menhali seeks compensatory and punitive damages and "equitable relief" that the Avon Police Department and various Marriott business entities will be "made to adopt appropriate policies to prevent future instances of the type of conduct described [here]."