In a public demonstration outside of College Hall, University of Pennsylvania students rallied to raise awareness of the New York Police Department’s surveillance of the Muslim Students Association.
Students protested in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue holding up manila folders that read “My NYPD File".
MSA is the main organizer of the demonstration.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a defense Friday of the secret NYPD operation monitoring Muslims in several states, saying it was ``legal,'' ``appropriate'' and ``constitutional.''
The mayor, speaking on his weekly radio show on WOR-AM, stopped short of acknowledging that police had spied on Muslims who weren't suspected of any crime, reiterating that investigators only followed leads.
``We don't target individuals based on race and religion,'' he said.
Officials in three states have traded accusations over who knew what about efforts by the NYPD to monitor and catalog Muslim neighborhoods and student groups. Critics have said it isn't appropriate for the police to spy on law-abiding citizens without reason to believe they have committed a crime.
This week, the police department came under harsh criticism from several college administrators, including the president of Yale University, after The Associated Press revealed that police agents had aggressively monitored Muslim student groups in the Northeast U.S., and had even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip with one group of college kids.
Officials in New Jersey, including Newark Mayor Corey Booker, also said they were surprised and concerned to learn that the NYPD had broadly monitored Muslims and mosques in that state.
Bloomberg declined to discuss details of the monitoring programs, but said they were necessary to protect a city with a history of home-grown terror plots, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
``We're not going to make the mistakes we made after the 1993 bombing,'' he said. ``We cannot let our guard down again. We cannot slack in our vigilance. The threat was real. The threat is real. The threat is not going away.''
He said the police department would do ``everything that the law permits us to do,'' even if those activities turn out to be unpopular.
``This is not a joke. This is not a political statement, a political football to play with,'' he said.
Yet Bloomberg also suggested again that officers had not done anything to invade the privacy of law-abiding Muslims, implying that intelligence officers had done things like ``look at websites'' and ``watch television to gather leads.''