“They held us at gunpoint for three hours,” said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “There is no justification for them operating like this. It’s totally unprofessional and unjustified.”
Arnwine says her home in Prince George’s County, MD was raided by a SWAT team and other members of the Prince George’s County Police Department in the early morning hours of Monday, November 21.
Arnwine, a well known attorney and prominent leader against new Voter ID laws and voter suppression, relayed the incident on Washington D.C. radio station WPFW and to Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. on Sharpton’s show “Keepin’ It Real.”
The civil rights lawyer told WPFW news anchor Askia Muhammad that, “President Obama has heard about it and has e-mailed people asking ‘what in the world is this?”‘
Arnwine is a familiar face on Capitol Hill to lawmakers, lobbyists and civil rights advocates.
“If it can happen to her it can happen to anyone,” Rev. Jackson said during the interview. Arnwine’s home is located in “the wealthiest African American majority county in the nation,” according to a 2006 Ebony magazine article. Arnwine is responsible for the widely distributed “map of shame” displaying new state voter ID laws across the nation.
Defining the incident as “outrageous,” Arnwine said she and four family members, including an 80 year-old relative, were in her home when a SWAT team arrived at 5:30 a.m., three days before Thanksgiving. Arwine told Sharpton that the police produced no warrant despite her requests and searched her home which she says was left in disarray. She said they asked for the name of who owned the house and how to spell that name.
“If they had a warrant and were targeting any of us then how could they not know our names and know how to spell them?” Arnwine said to WPFW’s Muhammad. “It looks like they were randomly looking — like they were on a fishing expedition. I honestly think they were looking for someone else. I honestly think they had the wrong address. I don’t think they had the right house but I’ll never know because I never saw the warrant,” she added. A press conference is being planned on the incident.
On November 16, Arwine testified at a voter suppression summit to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), CBC Chair Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and several other members of Congress alongside ACLU Legislative Director Laura Murphy.
On June 13, Arnwine appeared with other civil rights leaders, including Wade Henderson and Rev. Jackson, at the National Press Club on voter suppression.
On July 13, she appeared again with Rev. Jackson, and eight members of Congress on issues surrounding new Voter ID laws passed in several states. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Betty Sutton (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) spoke at the press conference along with Arnwine.
Arwine informed Rev. Sharpton that one of the members of the Prince George’s County Police Department was “taken aback” when she informed them she was an attorney and of basic fourth 4th Amendment rights. Arnwine claims the officer responded that “the fourth Amendment doesn’t apply here.” She also said they didn’t believe she was an attorney and asked what school she attended and what year she graduated. Arnwine is a graduate of Duke University School of Law.
Arnwine has been the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law since 1989. Her bio on their site in part reads: “the National Bar Association bestowed upon her the esteemed Gertrude E. Rush Award and in March 2011, she received the National Black Law Students Association’s prestigious Sadie T. M. Alexander Award. In 2009, Ms. Arnwine received two prominent awards: the Washington D.C. Freedom’s Sisters Award (sponsored by Ford Motor Company, the Smithsonian Institution and Cincinnati Museum Center which honors contemporary leaders who have fought for equality for people of color) and the Keeper of the Flame Award from the Boston Lawyers’ Committee.”