The Florida Civil Rights Association is asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate a series of raids on barbershops owned by African-Americans and Latinos, and an influential African-American congresswoman is joining the fight.

In a Dec. 1 press release, the association announced its filing of a federal civil rights complaint against the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Orange County sheriff’s office, alleging racial profiling of minority-owned barbershops. Now, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville,  has joined the fight — penning a letter to the Justice Department seeking further investigation into the raids.

From Brown’s letter:

By way of brief background, in August and September 2010, the Orange County Sheriffs Office assisted the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in conducting inspections pursuant to barbershop regulations. These inspections were carried out in a S WA T -like manner in which 14 officers, including narcotic agents and dogs stormed shops during business hours. The end result: most of the barbers charged with licensing violations pleaded no contest and were ordered to pay fines of about $500.

The association described the raids as “a series of warrantless drug raids conducted under the pretext (police ruse) of administrative licensing inspections.” The raids took place on Aug. 21, Sept. 17 and Oct. 8, 2010, and involved the use of narcotics and plainclothes officers who allegedly used a series of scare tactics to intimidate both the barbers and their customers, in what was supposed to be a typical barbershop inspection.

According to the complaint, the inspection involved officers carrying “guns, rushing through the barbershops, using a battering ram to break down doors to search for criminal activity of drugs.” The officers allegedly “used a K-9 to search outside and inside barbers and customers vehicles[,] … towed barbers and customer vehicles [and] answered the business phones, telling customers that the barbers were busy and being arrested.”

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