Things That Matter

New Yorkers Plan A Rally To Support The Woman Arrested For Selling Churros On The NYC Subway

A woman selling churros on the subway, a sight as common as breakdancers, panhandlers, and school children selling candy in New York City’s central public transportation system, was arrested. The incident spurred further public outcry amidst allegations of over-policing on the trains. 

For years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) which oversees public transportation in New York, has come under fire as New York City’s subway system has increasingly begun to decay with more trains out of service, delays, mechanical failures, and trains that run slower than they did in the 1950s due to mismanagement and poor maintenance.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s solution was to hire 500 more subway police officers to combat fare evasion. Following the crackdown, widespread protests have occurred in response to at least two incidents where many felt officers used excessive force to thwart subway evasion and other petty crimes.

Police captured on video bringing churro vendor to tears.

In New York City it is not uncommon to see people selling helpful items or snacks on subway platforms, which is why the treatment of one churro vendor has sparked outcry on social media. Sofia Newman filmed and shared the video on Twitter. In it, the woman is crying as officers handcuff her and take away her churro cart.

Newman doesn’t remain a bystander, she shouts at the cops for harassing the woman. 

“It’s illegal to sell food inside the subway stations,” the officer told her. 

According to Newman, the woman kept trying to speak to one of the officer’s in Spanish, but a plainclothes officer kept interrupting. 

“She kept trying to speak to one of the cops in Spanish, but the plainclothes cop kept rolling his eyes and saying things like, ‘Are you done?’ and ‘I know you can speak English’ Eventually, they cuffed her and unceremoniously dragged her and her cart away,” Newman said

The police officers eventually take the handcuffs off of the woman and let her go, only issuing her a summons.

“No matter what the law says, there is no reason why that many officers needed to encircle, demean, and police the poverty of that woman of color,” Newman wrote on Twitter.

According to the NYPD, the woman has been issued 10 summonses for unlicensed vending, however many felt her treatment was excessive for a nonviolent crime. 

New York Comptroller and advocates criticize over-policing.

“Another incident that raises serious questions about the increased police presence in our subways,” New York City Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer tweeted. “This kind of enforcement doesn’t make anyone safer.”

Governor Cuomo seems to have little support for increase in police form as the New York Times notes. Police Commissioner James O’Neil (who resigned a week ago) said overall crime is down and the subway is safe, despite Cuomo’s assertions otherwise. 

AOC has also voiced her opinions on community justice and the subway system.

Transit advocates say the cost is too high and as the MTA’s financial crisis looms, service cuts and major layoffs are being considered. The 20 percent increase in officers would cost taxpayers $663 million over a decade. Some wonder if that money would be better spent bailing out the MTA and repairing the poorly functioning subway.

According to the New York Times, “Transit groups have urged Mr. Cuomo to cancel the plans for new officers, who would work for the transit agency rather than the city’s police department, as the current force does. The governor, they say, should instead focus resources on modernizing the subway, which still relies on signal equipment that was introduced before World War II.”

Protests spawn following allegations of subway police using excessive force.

Others felt that adding more police to the subway would lead to more policing of people of color and criminalizing of the poor who must pay $6.50 to commute to work every day in a city with a $15 minimum wage and where the average one-bedroom apartment cost $2964 to rent per month.

Those fears appeared to be a self-fulfilling prophecy when a video of a cop tackling a 19-year-old unarmed teen, Adrian Napier, for evading a $2.75 surfaced. A few days later another officer was caught punching two teenagers in the face, one of which is suing

“There is no excuse for the excessive use of force and hyperaggressive policing we saw in these two incidents,” Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, said at a news conference at City Hall.

To protest the subway police, 1,000 demonstrators marched through the subway and “hopped” the turnstiles, evading the fares together in solidarity. 

“We needed to react quickly because what we’re seeing is this additional 500 cops that Cuomo has authorized are waging a war on poor people of color,” Amin Husain, an organizer with Decolonize This Place, told Gothamist

“If the city isn’t going to listen to the people, then the people are going to assert their legitimacy. I don’t think anyone disagrees: there should be less cops and better service for the MTA.”

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After Being Kneeled On By Police, People Are Comparing This Latino Man’s Death to George Floyd

Things That Matter

After Being Kneeled On By Police, People Are Comparing This Latino Man’s Death to George Floyd

Photo via GoFundMe

Mario Gonzalez’s family is asking for answers after the 26-year-old Latino man died after a “scuffle” with the police. Because of the circumstances surrounding Gonzalez’s death, people are comparing his death to George Floyd’s.

Three Bay Area police officers kneeled on Gonzalez’s back and shoulders for five minutes before he became unresponsive and died. In a statement, the police said his death was caused by a “medical emergency.”

“Officers attempted to detain [Mario Gonzalez], and a physical altercation ensued,” the statement read. “At that time, the man had a medical emergency. Officers immediately began lifesaving measures and requested the Alameda Fire Department to the scene. The Alameda Fire Department transported the male to a local area hospital, where he later died.”

Mario Gonzalez was wandering around in a park, appearing disoriented and mumbling to himself when some bystanders called the police. “He seems like he’s tweaking, but he’s not doing anything wrong,” said the 911 caller. “He’s just scaring my wife.”

Gonzalez was unable to answer basic questions when police arrived at the scene. The interaction quickly escalated physically, with multiple officers wrestling him to the ground.

The Alameda Police Department released body cam footage that showed the entire interaction. “I’ve got to identify you, so I know who I’m talking to [and] make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything like that,” says one of the cops. “You come up with a plan, let me know you’re not going to be drinking in our parks over here, and then we can be on our merry way.”  

But Gonzalez could not–or would not–respond, at which point the cops attempted to handcuff him and wrestle him to the ground. Gonzalez resisted arrest, asking the police officers to stop while repeatedly and profusely apologizing. “I’m sorry,” Gonzalez says at one point, to which an officer responds: “It’s OK, alright? I forgive you.” Minutes later, he was dead.

“Everything we saw in that video was unnecessary and unprofessional,” said Mario’s brother, Gerardo Gonzalez, in a news conference. “The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd.”

“His death was completely avoidable and unnecessary,” said the Gonzalez’s attorney, Julia Sherwin, to The New York Times. “Drunk guy in a park doesn’t equal a capital sentence.” The three police officers involved in Gonzalez’s death are now on paid leave, according to AP News.

Police originally told the Gonzalez family that Mario died due to a “medical emergency” while in the custody of police. But after his family saw the video of his death, they realized the police had been stretching the truth. Mario Gonzalez was the father of a 4-year-old boy as well as the sole caretaker of his 23-year-old autistic brother.

The family has since set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to provide care and living expenses to Mario’s brother and son.

“Mario was not a violent person. Mario was kind. He helped my mom take care of our brother. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. Our family needs answers,” reads the campaign.

To many, Mario Gonzalez’s death further illustrates their belief that police officers should not be the ones responding to calls about people struggling with mental health or addiction crises.

“What happened to Mario Gonzalez should be a wake-up call to the city of Alameda,” said former Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell to KPIX 5 News. “You can’t have officers responding to people who are not aggressive, not threatening who are going through a mental health crisis.”

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

A massive protest movement that swept across Colombia seems to have paid off – at least in the short term – as President Ivan Duque says that he will withdrawal the controversial tax plan that sent angry protesters into the streets. However, the protests claimed at least 17 victims who died during the unrest and hundreds more were injured.

Now that the president has withdrawn the controverial bill, many are wondering what’s next and will they have to take to the streets once again.

Massive protests claimed the lives of at least 17 people and hundreds more were injured across Colombia.

Unions and other groups kicked off marches on Wednesday to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw a controversial tax plan that they say unfairly targets the most vulnerable Colombians.

Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and road blockades occurred in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were deployed in the capital.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali, and local human rights groups alleged up to 17 deaths occurred.

After a week of protests, the government has shelved the controversial plan.

Faced with the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday ordered the proposal be withdrawn from Congress where it was being debated. In a televised statement, he said his government would work to produce new proposals and seek consensus with other parties and organizations.

President Duque, in his statement, acknowledged “it is a moment for the protection of the most vulnerable, an invitation to build and not to hate and destroy”.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without paltriness,” he added. “A path of consensus, of clear perceptions. And it gives us the opportunity to say clearly that there will be no increase in VAT for goods and services.”

The tax reform had been heavily criticized for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending. The aim was to generate $6.3 billion between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

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