Black Barbarian’s Mother and Sister Were Handcuffed and Humiliated, Ethnic Profiling Explained

A view at Aleksanterinkatu near Mummotunneli's (Rafaello's terrace) tram stops, where two civil policemen arrogantly handcuffed rap artist Musta Barbaari's mother and sister on Friday night. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

A view at Aleksanterinkatu near Mummotunneli’s (Rafaello’s terrace) tram stops, where two civil policemen arrogantly handcuffed rap artist Musta Barbaari’s mother and sister on Friday night. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

On Saturday, James Nikander, known as Musta Barbaari (the Black Barbarian), “the black rap artist” from Finland, received a disturbing call.

His sister told him that while she was celebrating Friday night with their mother at the Helsinki center and while they were going for the taxi queue near the tram stops of Mummotunneli (Rafaello’s terrace), civil police had stopped them and demanded to see their passports. “My sister declined and asked why they should show their passports,” Nikander said on Facebook.

The civil cops didn’t tell a reason. Instead, they arrogantly handcuffed both and put the mother on the ground. “My sister repeated her question that why are they treated this way?”

The police said nothing.

“My mother was afraid for her life and thought she will get beaten up.”

Two police patrols arrived at the scene. They took both to one of the cars, where they searched their bags. Later the police opened his sister’s handcuffs. She started filming the scene. The police took her phone away. Suddenly the footage doesn’t exist anymore.

Later, one of the civil policemen had lost his batch and they blamed Nikander’s mother and sister for taking it. The police conducted a full body search on both. “The police searched their bags and couldn’t find any batch, instead, my mother’s tablet had been broken,” Nikander said.

Musta Barbaari. Picture: Taito Kawata

Musta Barbaari. Picture: Taito Kawata

“The situation lasted an hour and my sister and mother were publicly humiliated. My mother is still in shock and is afraid to step out of the house. My sister and mother are the most wonderful people on earth and it hurts me to hear that they have been treated so badly,” Nikander said and continued, “Nobody wants to hear that something bad would happen to their relatives!”

An eyewitness said to the Finnish news agency STT that she saw the beginning of the incident: “The women were walking in the street when two men in very ordinary clothes appeared behind them. The other grabbed the woman by the hand and repeated in English that ‘show your passport’.” “The man acted in such a threatening way that I approached them and asked for him to let go. There were others as well who stopped and tried to find out what’s going on.”

Soon, one of the cop’s wearing civil clothes said to the eyewitness that “the police is at the scene.”

A Finnish police officer admitted to YLE that the police are inspecting people who look foreign. “Of course, a person who looks like a foreigner, likely is a foreigner and we are assuring the person’s rights to be in the country,” the police officer said.

According to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), it’s prohibited by Council of Europe guidelines for the police to randomly ask identification papers from people who look foreign. However, according to ECRI, Finland’s Aliens Act allows ethnic profiling. “There is one [regulation] which increases the risk of racial profiling by the police, so this is the police singling out people based simply on the basis of their visible appearance,” Council of Europe communications officer Andrew Cutting told YLE. “Another issue [the report] raises is that foreigners can be detained whilst their identity can be ascertained in certain situations and that this too is discriminatory.”

According to Chief Inspector Henri Helminen from the Helsinki Police Department, the supervision of foreigners is not based on ethnic profiling. “A person who is subjected to supervision cannot under any circumstances be based on the person’s physical appearance like the skin color or the person’s conviction,” Helminen said. The profiling is based on a total evaluation of “whether it’s likely that the person is foreign.”

However, if the police are asking for the identification on duty “everyone has, regardless of their nationality, an obligation to prove their identity to the authorities.”

The police are recommending of carrying some sort of ID in the pocket during all times. However, it’s not obligatory. “Often telling one’s name and social security number is enough.”

If one declines to show ID or fails to prove the identity, it could be interpreted as a crime, just like giving a false identification.

“Primarily, the incidents are solved by talking and in mutual understanding but if a person is not cooperating with the police, a fine could follow or one can be arrested to verify the identification.”

Musta Barbaari is waiting for a public apology from the police and a compensation for the caused damage.

“Make sure that your police officers know the human rights in the future,” he said.

The civil policemen have been reported of an offense.