Students at New York University's Islamic Center held a Friday meeting to demand an apology from the NYPD for its surveillance practices, but both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that the department is protecting the city and not violating people's constitutional rights.
The students discussed the NYPD's reported monitoring of mosques, Muslim businesses and Muslim student groups in the city and areas throughout the Northeast, which some called a civil rights violation.
Opponents of the surveillance said they did not understand why the intelligence gathering was necessary and they wanted it stopped.
"If he had leads, if there was some reason to investigate, that would be fine, but it seems that we're being targeted for no reason," said NYU student Saba Gill.
"This like one thought that's been coming to my head is that I'm synonymous with terrorism, and that's not what I'm about at all. And that's not what, you can say, all muslims are about," said NYU student Aisha Abdelmula.
The students say they want an apology from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and will continue pressing local officials for support and writing letters to the police until their concerns are answered.
NYU President John Sexton previously wrote a letter expressing his dismay at the reports of the surveillance program and wrote that the NYU community was "alarmed."
Meanwhile, city leaders defended on Friday the NYPD's right to gather intelligence throughout the region, including in other cities, saying the media was wrong to imply that these surveillance programs are unconstitutional.
They responded to the uproar over officers monitoring Muslim groups in Newark, N.J.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he was misled by the NYPD, and would not have allowed the surveillance if he knew what it was.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city cannot be too diligent in a post-September 11th world, and that the NYPD did not break any laws or violate any constitutional rights.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly also told reporters on Friday that the NYPD has a "good working relationship" with Muslims and city mosques, and that in order to protect the city, the department needs to gather intelligence from the surrounding area.
He also noted that both the September 11th terrorist attacks and 14 foiled terror plots in the last decade were developed by Muslim extremists.
Meanwhile, the office of State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement Friday that it is unable to investigate the NYPD's intelligence gathering.
The Association of Muslim American Lawyers previously asked the attorney general to launch the investigation, saying Muslims' civil rights were being violated.
Schneiderman's office said in the statement, “While we share some of the serious concerns raised in the letter, there are significant legal and investigative obstacles that impede our ability to launch a review of this matter at the time.”
In response, 24 local and national civil rights organizations released a joint statement expressing extreme disappointment in the attorney general's decision.
The statement read in part, "By their actions, Mayor Bloomberg and now Attorney General Schneiderman are sending a deeply disturbing message to American Muslims in New York and across the country: they are not deserving of equal protection of our laws."