How to react when witnessing Racial Profiling?

Not everyone is directly affected by racial profiling but everyone is sure to witness situations where the police or border guards for no apparent reason target Black People or People of Colour for a person screening. What can you do as a witness of Racial Profiling instead of just looking away in shame? The online travelling portal fairunterwegs.ch asked this important question on their summer blog. We reproduce it slightly altered and in an English translation.

To show what people affected in these situations would like to see from witnesses, farirunterwegs.ch spoke to Mohamed Abdirahim (JUSO, city council of Berne) who pointed out following possible reactions:

  • Addressing and supporting: Racial profiling controls are often a public humiliation for the persons concerned, which is why it is important to speak directly to the person concerned as a witness and ask if everything is alright and if necessary, if they want you to intervene. If the situation requires it, you can also give your own contact details and make yourself available as a witness.

Solidarity can also be helpful in such a situation: For example, at the next identity check where you witness Racial Profiling, simply show your identity card yourself as an act of solidarity.

  • Documentation: If the situation threatens to escalate, it can also be helpful to document what has happened so that you may have evidence later on, if necessary. This is also permissible if the officers can be identified on the video. Portraits, however, are not permitted. Always be aware of the risk that obvious filming of police officers can contribute to escalation.

Depending on the legal situation in the respective country, documentation may not only take the form of a video or photo, but also a written note. Important in the latter case is a detailed description of the police officers present and a note of who, if applicable, has used violence or otherwise behaved incorrectly.

  • Active intervention: As a witness you have the right to observe the control from a reasonable distance, provided you do not interfere with the work of the police. Active intervention requires moral courage and may also result in a fine if the police consider your intervention to be an obstruction of their official action. Nevertheless, a decisive intervention can not only support the person concerned in a spirit of solidarity, but can also encourage others present to do so themselves another time. For example, commenting on the situation from a distance and expressing one’s opinion on it can show the person concerned – and the police – that one does not agree with the procedure.

For more information about Racial Profiling in Switzerland check the Alliance against Racial Profiling.

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