FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 30, 2018
Darya Nicol and Nnenna Amuchie
BYP100 DC and 30+ Organizations Demand Justice for Woman Assaulted by Metro Transit Police
Washington, DC – On May 21, 2018 a 24-year-old Black woman was assaulted by a Metro Transit Police officer at the Fort Totten Metro Station in Washington, DC. As the young woman (referred to as H.U. for the purposes of the statement) was exiting the turnstile, she was targeted by a Metro Transit Police Department (Transit Police) officer for allegedly failing to pay and was violently attacked.
During the course of the incident, the Transit Police officers tackled her and slammed her to the ground, causing her shirt to rip and exposing her bare chest to onlookers, all while threatening her with a taser. As a result, H.U. suffered injuries that required her to go to the hospital and found that upon her release her I.D. and metro card were missing. She now faces potential criminal charges for fare evasion and resisting arrest.
This is a clear case of racial profiling and the policing of young Black people in public, as well as the violence inflicted by militarized state actors for non-violent behaviors involving a few dollars. It is far from the first time dehumanizing and degrading actions toward Black people have occurred at the hands of state actors.
In a similar incident, just a few months ago on the 90/92 line, a 20-year-old Black woman was assaulted in front of her two children by Transit Police and ended up with four broken teeth and a fractured knee. In 2017, a 1-year-old Black girl became the victim when Transit Police assaulted her father while she was in his arms. In 2016, the assault of a Black teenage girl occurred when she was arrested for simply having a bag of potato chips and a lollipop. Transit Police violence against Black women and girls is an unacceptable trend must be stopped.
These trends have a national reach. Monday’s assault also calls to mind 15-year-old Dajerria Becton, a young Black teenager who experienced the same sudden and painful sexual and physical assault by police officers while attending a pool party with friends in Texas. H.U., Dajerria, and the countless others assaulted and brutalized by police highlight the ways in which Blackness is routinely criminalized and how violence is a normalized status of police officers.
The escalation of Monday’s attack demonstrates how state actors criminalize Blackness and poverty — more specifically Black people experiencing poverty due to government neglect and those furthest away from the status quo. Because of this, BYP100 DC and the undersigned organizations recognize the injustice of this attack and fully support H.U. We call for the following:
1. Paul J. Wiedefeld General Manager and CEO, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to fire the two officers involved in attacking H.U.
2. U.S. Attorney Office District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu and the Office of the Attorney General, Karl Racine to drop all charges against H.U.
3. The DC Council to pass the Fare Evasion Decriminalization Act of 2017, including an amendment to decriminalize eating and drinking on the Metro.
These demands uplift that rather than make a flawed transportation system more affordable, WMATA chooses to punish its riders. As the city’s cost of living continues to rise and Black residents are continually pushed out, those not able to afford the exponentially high cost of living are faced with the dilemma of paying increasingly unaffordable fares or being attacked and criminalized.
These issues are made worse by the fact that WMATA’s fare evasion enforcement efforts have increased by 127% from 2016 to 2017, as well as WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s admitted support for “zero tolerance” and “broken windows” approaches that have been proven to be not only racist, classist, and ineffective, but to actively decrease safety.
Most DC Councilmembers have decided to co-sponsor a bill to decriminalize fare evasion, but Councilmember Charles Allen, Chair of the committee with jurisdiction over the bill and Councilmember Jack Evans, who has a dual role on the Council and as Chair of WMATA Board, are notably missing as co-sponsors. Laws like fare evasion criminalization allow officers full range of discretion to attack Black people and with no official oversight entity over Transit Police, officers can easily abdicate responsibility with no accountability or consequences.
Whether one pays or not, no money or property is worth more than the value and dignity of human life and physical safety. There is no excuse for the attack on H.U. or the continuous violent attacks on young Black people. Among those most likely to be targeted are Black people who are poor, young, gender non-conforming, and queer.
American history has socialized the public to believe that Black bodies— particularly the bodies of Black women, girls, and femmes— are not our own; and, according to the state, our bodies are not our own to protect or defend. Such circumstances should never be met with the force or presumed guilt inflicted upon this young woman last Monday. As long as attacks like the one on Monday keep happening, BYP100 DC and our partners will continually resist the attempt to turn our people into spectacles or scapegoats.
As summer is upon us and D.C. residents young and old look for ways to exist in public, BYP100 DC will remain vigilant in calling out all criminalization against and disregard for Black people. BYP100 DC and the undersigned organizations call for the full support of H.U. and demand that WMATA fire the officers involved in assaulting H.U. last Monday and drop all charges against H.U., and that the DC Council decriminalize fare evasion.