Ahmed Mohamed’s Arrest
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On September 14th, 2015, a 14 year-old boy named Ahmed Mohamed was arrested in Irving, Texas, after bringing a home-made electronic clock to school. Police and school administrators described the device as a "hoax bomb," but later declined filing charges against the student after determining that the device was not designed for any other purpose outside of being a clock. The arrest gathered much attention on social media, ranking high on trending lists and receiving many reactions from notable individuals including US President Barack Obama.
Ninth grader Ahmed Mohamed is a self-taught electronics enthusiast who was a member of the robotics club in his previous middle school. "My hobby is to invent stuff," said Ahmed Mohamed to the Dallas Morning News. Ahmed had hoped to impress his new high school teachers with his knowledge of circuitry and electronics. On September 13th, 2015, Ahmed had constructed a DIY electronic clock based on a design he found on the internet. Happy with his design, Ahmed installed it in a pencil box and brought it to school the next day.
Instead of impressing his teachers, Ahmed's engineering teacher suggested that he not "show any other teachers," but when the clock beeped during an English class, the teacher demanded to inspect the device. The teacher then confiscated the clock under the impression it looked like a bomb. Mohamed was later pulled from his sixth period class and taken to the principal's office where he was interrogated by several officers before being handcuffed and taken to a juvenile detention center. Once there, Ahmed was then allowed to contact his parents, a privilege of which he was previously denied.
The following day, on September 15th, 2015, the Irving Independent School District suspended Mohamed for three days for bringing the clock to school, and released the following letter to the parents of students in the district, claiming that although they investigated a Mohamed's device as a threat they did not find it to be threatening, but that this was a good time for parents to discuss what types of objects were allowed and not allowed in school.
As soon as this story was published by the Dallas Morning News, it began to accrue heavy online reaction across all social media sites. An initial post of the photograph of Mohamed being arrested to the subreddit /r/pics received 5,899 points (96% upvoted), while an additional post of a video to the subreddit /r/videos of Ahmed's father running for President in his native country of Sudan received 6,146 points (95% upvoted).
Soon after the first news of Mohamed's arrest began to go viral, Mohamed's two older sisters, Eyman, 18, and Ayisha, 17, created a Twitter account for Mohamed using the hashtag people were using to talk about his story, @IStandWithAhmed. Within 5 hours of the account's first tweet, he had 31,400 followers.
The #IStandWithAhmed hashtag began to trend worldwide in the 24 hours after Mohamed's arrest. Twitter released the below chart demonstrating the hashtag's growth. According to analytics group Topsy, the hashtag had been used almost 500,000 times in less than 24 hours, and in the afternoon of September 16th, 2015, was being used at a rate of about 100,000 times per hour.
Many political figures and celebrities posted to social media following Mohamed's arrest. President Barack Obama offered him a trip to the White House in a tweet that received over 190,000 retweets in less than three hours. Hillary Clinton offered her support, and the astronaut Chris Hadfield offered Mohamed the chance to visit the science show Generator. Other celebrities, especially those of color, like comedian Aziz Ansari, blogger Anil Dash, and musician Questlove, tweeted in support. Many others took selfies of themselves holding up clocks in support.
On September 17th, the blog ArtVoice published an article titled "Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves," which speculated that Mohamed did not invent a clock, but simply placed the internal components of a Radio Shack digital clock inside his pencil box. The following day, YouTuber G O'LastName uploaded a video in which the internals of a digital clock are quickly removed and placed inside of a metal pencil box (shown below, left). The same day, YouTuberThomas Talbot upload a video analyzing the photograph of Mohamed's clock, pointing out that the clock inside the pencil case was simply a disassembled alarm clock (shown below, right).
That day, the video was submitted to the /r/videos subreddit, where it gained over 5,200 votes (68% upvoted) and 3,600 comments in 72 hours. Also on September 18th, Richard Dawkins posted several tweets about the incident, many of which argued Mohamed should not have been praised for inventing a clock and speculating that he did it to impress his teachers (shown below).
News Media Coverage
Mohamed's arrest was covered extensively throughout mainstream media, including editorial coverage in the New York Times, Vox, Gawker, and Slate. Later that day on September 16th, following Mohamed's release with all charges dropped, Mohamed's spoke and answered several questions regarding his arrest during a short press conference, which was also broadcasted on CBS News. On September 17th, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, Ahmed's father, revealed that the 14-year-old student won't be returning to MacArthur and is considering a transfer to another school or home-schooling in an interview with WFAA.
Civil Lawsuit Threat
On November 23rd, 2015, Mohamed's family sent letters to the city of Irving and the Independent Irving School District seeking a total of $15 million in damages and formal apologies for causing the teen "severe psychological trauma" in the light of their actions in September. The letters, which were written by the family's representing firm Laney & Bollinger and made public by the Dallas Morning News later that same day, charged several allegations of mistreatment against the city and school officials (shown below) and concluded with the family's intention to pursue civil lawsuits to the fullest extent within 60 days if they chose not to comply with the demands:
- the police illegally questioned him without contacting his parents despite his explicit request;
- the police detained him and questioned him at a juvenile detention facility;
- the school's principal threatened to expel him unless he admitted that his clock was a hoax bomb;
- the school officials continued to question his motives in public even after police dropped the charges;
- the city and school officials falsely accused Ahmed of violating school policy and "zero tolerance" laws
 New York Times – Texas Student Is Under Police Investigation for Building a Clock
 The Dallas Morning News – Family adjusting to Ahmed Mohamed's sudden fame as police announce no charges for clock deemed 'hoax bomb'
 Vox – Here's how a Texas school explained arresting a 14-year-old Muslim boy for making a clock
 /r/pics – 14 year old Muslim student reaction to being arrested for bringing a clock into school
 /r/videos – Father of the 14-year-old arrested for bringing a clock to school ran for president of Sudan, advocating for women's rights, freedom of the press and fighting terrorism.
 Twitter – @IStandWithAhmed
 Topsy – #IStandWithAhmed
 Twitter – @POTUS's Tweet
 Twitter – @HillaryClinton's Tweet
 Twitter – @AzizAnsari's Tweet
 Twitter – @Questlove's Twitter
 Buzzfeed – People Are Taking Pictures Of Themselves With Clocks To Show Solidarity With Ahmed
 Twitter – Tags: #istandwithahmed
 Gawker – The Clock-Building Teen and the Quran-Burning Pastor: How America Treats a "Model" Muslim Family
 Slate – Ahmed Mohamed Shows Why Makers and Hackers Care So Much About Freedom to Tinker
 CBS News – Teen Arrested For Homemade Clock Speaks
 WFAA – Ahmed: I want to make sure this 'never happens' again
 ArtVoice – Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed
 Reddit – Ahmed Mohammed Clock is a Fraud
 Dallas Morning News – Letters demand $15 million, say Irving officials worked to smear Ahmed Mohamed after clock arrest
Sep 16, 2015 at 03:04PM EDT
Sep 16, 2015 at 03:18PM EDT
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