Last Thursday Santa Clara Police evacuated a Scott Blvd. office building after a letter containing a white powder was opened in the office of a national civil rights organization, the San Francisco-Bay Area Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Santa Clara Weekly is CAIR’s neighbor in the building. The white powder was “apparently” non-toxic, KTVU reported Sunday.
This was the second such incident involving a CAIR office. Earlier in the day, CAIR’s national headquarters in Washington D.C. received a similar envelope of white powder.
The incident is now under investigation by the FBI, which has a lead in the case, said FBI Public Affairs Specialist Michele Ernst. The agency is testing the evidence in its lab and investigating whether the Washington and Santa Clara incidents are connected. “It’s an ongoing investigation,” said Ernst.
Police got the call at 1:10 p.m., according to SCPD, and responded with hazmat, police and emergency medical teams.”Law enforcement was very responsive,” said San Francisco-Bay Area CAIR Executive Director Zahra Billoo, who wasn’t in the office at the time the suspicious envelope arrived.
No one was injured, but the building was evacuated immediately. About a half dozen CAIR employees were taken to a local hospital, where they were quarantined briefly. Some of those evacuated, however, had to leave their cars overnight because the parking lot adjacent to the building was cordoned off. However, the CAIR office was open and the staff at work the following day.
“I’m angered that someone would target a civil rights organization,” said Billoo, at the end of the harrowing day.
Since November’s terrorist attacks, thepace of anti-Muslim threats and attacks has escalated. Through Dec. 8, there were more than 60 incidents of vandalism and harassment targeting mosques and Muslims, CAIR spokesman Corey Saylor told CNN last week. This is the highest number of such attacks since the civil rights organization started tracking them in 2009.