NYCLU Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit On Behalf of Broadway Star of 'Ragtime'

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
January 12, 2000 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Alton Fitzgerald White, an African-American man who plays the lead role in the Broadway production of ‘Ragtime’.

The civil rights lawsuit alleges that Mr. White was unconstitutionally and illegally arrested and imprisoned, illegally strip searched and discriminated against because he is African-American. It also alleges that what happened to Mr. White is part of widespread patterns and practices by the NYPD of unconstitutionally and illegally arresting thousands of New Yorkers every year.

On July 16, 1999, Mr. White was leaving his residence in Harlem when, along with three other African-American men, he was arrested by police officers, handcuffed, and searched in public and in plain view of his neighbors, without any probable cause. Mr. White was then taken to the local police precinct, where he was subjected to a strip search and interrogated, again without probable cause that he had committed any crime. Finally, after several hours, the police released Mr. White without filing any charges against him.

White is seeking a declaration that his rights were violated and that the City of New York developed and maintained practices, policies and/or customs exhibiting deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of its citizens, as well as ordering the defendants to pay compensatory and punitive damages.

The case is Alton Fitzgerald White v. City of New York. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court. Attorneys in the case are and Reginald Shuford, a staff attorney with the national ACLU Legal Department. The legal brief is online at

More information on the ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling can be found at:

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