Metro riders objecting to police harassment at WMATA board meeting harassed by police

Update Sep 29:WTOP Radio reports WMATA board admits to "crackdown on fare evaders," students being pepper sprayed by police over missing cards for free travel, violent police assaults when riders defend themselves.

On the 28th of September, Metro riders organized by Save Our System descended on a WMATA board meeting scheduled at the deliberately inconvenient time of 9AM to air complaints about skyrocketing fares, service cuts, and police harassment. There was at least one ugly incident of a speaker objecting to racist harassment of riders by Metro police being harassed at the podium by these same cops.

A number of groups have called out transit police for outright criminalizing Black and Brown riders. Metro's general manager claimed "we don't arrest people for hopping the turnstile" but apparently that only applies to white riders. At previous protests reports have been aired by African-American speakers of routine arrest for unpaid fares or not having enough money to pay the fare. Remember that the Metrorail sytem does not compute or announce the fare on the fare gate until a trip is completed. This exposes a rider without enough extra money to top up a smartrip card to risk of arrest. Riders perceived as white have at least in the past been let out of the system, but a rider of color faces the risk of outright arrest.

Harassment by transit police causes some people not to ride Metro unless there is no other choice. In the case of people of color, this could well be a deliberate objective of the harassment. After all, upscale white riders on the Red Line going to lobbying offices on K st can afford to pay higher fares, and are more likely to ride if they have the trains to themselves.

Speaking of fares, transit activists and rider at the hearing demanded a flat fare or a $2 cap on fares, free transfers, and an expanded system, delivering 11,000 signed petitions. Activists are also asking that the developers and big businesses who rely on Metro to make their astronomical profits possible pay their fair share, rather than calling for a regressive sales tax to keep what's left of Metro from spiraling into the ground. The sales tax proposal appears to be so unpopular some suspect it was intended from the start to shut down discussion.

Police harass a speaker at the podium, speaker was testifying about transit police harassing riders. Photo by Do Better WMATA

11, 000 signed petitions for a flat fare, free transfers, and an expanded system(photo by Save Our System

Delivering the petitions (photo by Fais Siddiqui)

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