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.”

Rikers Guards Suspended For Allegedly Ignoring Teen Inmate As He Committed Suicide

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Rikers Guards Suspended For Allegedly Ignoring Teen Inmate As He Committed Suicide

mitchjackson / Instagram

Four New York City Rikers Island correction officers, including a captain, have been suspended for knowingly failing to intervene in a teen detainee’s suicide attempt for seven minutes. The night before Thanksgiving, Nicholas Feliciano, 18, was jumped by seven other inmates and left with a gash on his face. Instead of taking him to the infirmary, guards placed him in a holding cell where he hung himself from a pipe with his shirt. Whistleblowers from the prison have told The New York Times that one guard actually opened Feliciano’s cell door to find him hanging from the pipe, closed the door, and walked away. A witness told The New York Times that, after Feliciano stepped off the toilet partition, he changed his mind and tried to find the partition to free himself from the makeshift noose. Feliciano hung for seven minutes without any intervention, and it was more than a half-hour before paramedics were able to whisk him away from the prison complex. 

Feliciano was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was put into an induced coma on Tuesday. He has yet to show signs of brain activity.

At first, the Department of Corrections wouldn’t allow Feliciano’s family to visit him in the hospital.

CREDIT: LEGAL AID SOCIETY

The Legal Aid Society, which has taken up Feliciano’s case, penned a letter to the DOC to request charges against the teen be dropped. “This is unacceptable. He poses no security risk and needs his family at his bedside at this critical time,” the letter reads. According to Legal Aid Society, the family had to wait to be cleared by DOC to visit him, were not allowed to bring anything inside his hospital room, or even photograph him. 

In response, the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled Feliciano’s parole warrant.

CREDIT: @LEGALAIDNYC / TWITTER

That meant that Feliciano was no longer in the custody of the state, and his family was free to visit him at their leisure. “We are relieved that the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled the parole warrant pending against Nicholas Feliciano, our client who is still battling for his life at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens,” reads a statement from The Legal Aid Society. The organization maintains that the act is too little too late for the much more serious “concerns over the New York City Department of Correction’s failure to properly screen and address Mr. Feliciano’s mental health issues, which were known to the City at the time of his remand,” the statement continues. 

Feliciano was charged with robbery, but because of his age, the court gave him a short sentence and kept his criminal record sealed. Within weeks of his release, Feliciano had violated his parole by testing positive for drugs, skipping mandated programs, attempting to purchase a gun, and traveling past state lines to visit a girlfriend. When Feliciano arrived at his parole meeting, he was taken into custody and scheduled to be arraigned more than a month later. The Legal Aid Society of New York is using Feliciano as a tragic example for “the need for Albany to enact comprehensive parole reform legislation immediately next session to address cases like Nicholas’, where the alleged violation of parole does not rise to the level of a new criminal charge.”

Feliciano has a history of mental illness, including suicide attempts, says the Legal Aid Society. 

CREDIT: @RENTALSINMIAMI / TWITTER

According to The New York Times’s report, Feliciano was taken out of the general population holding area after getting into a fight in order to get him medical attention. He waited for six hours in a holding cell without medical attention. An hour before he attempted suicide, he was taken out of a two-person cell and placed in a cell by himself. An hour and a half later, he was hanging off a pipe while correction officers stood by. An off-duty captain saw closed-circuit surveillance footage of Feliciano hanging and rushed to take him down. According to The New York Times, an official said Feliciano didn’t have a pulse for two minutes. 

In response, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “The people in our jails are human beings. Their well-being is our responsibility. These allegations are deeply troubling. The 3 officers and their supervisor have been suspended and an investigation is underway. We’re taking immediate action.” The New York City Council voted October 17 to close Rikers prison complex and the chapter on its disturbing human rights violations.

READ: NYC Determines Layleen Polanco’s Death Might Have Had To Do With Her State In Solitary Confinement

Dilan Cruz Becomes A Symbol Of Colombia’s Protest Movement After He Was Shot Dead By Police

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Dilan Cruz Becomes A Symbol Of Colombia’s Protest Movement After He Was Shot Dead By Police

RCN Radio Bogota

As Colombians keep protesting the government of Ivan Duque, tensions are mounting due to the increasingly aggressive tactics being used by the police. The political climate in South America is extremely polirized at the moment, with waves of protests turning violent in Chile, Bolivia and now Colombia, where the Duque government is facing stern challenges that have led to unprecedented measures such as a curfew in the capital city of Bogota.

 Duque has at least admitted that the country has to enter a “national conversation”. But, at the same time, the conservative president has called for the “deployment of joint patrols of police and army in the most critical places”. Protesters argue that you can’t have both: you either enter a conversation or deploy the full force of the State. Multiple injuries and deaths have been reported. But the recent death of one Dilan Cruz is a momentum shifting event. 

The anti-government protests are being led by unions and student groups.

Credit: RCN Radio

Tens of thousands of protesters have flooded the streets of Bogota for the past week. According to DW, anti-government protests “are centered on discontent with Duque’s conservative government — a key ally of the United States, rumors of economic reforms, and what protesters say is a lack of government action to stop corruption and the murder of human rights activists”. Colombia has traditionally been a very divided country when it comes to the right/left ideological divide. The protests might have righteous motives, but is is hard to contain a movement.

As Reuters reports: “Marches have attracted thousands of peaceful demonstrators, but last Thursday and Friday were also marred by the destruction of mass transit stations, the use of tear gas, curfews in Cali and Bogota and the deaths of three people in connection with alleged looting”. Things might be getting worse before they get better as negotiations have been slow and sterile.

As CE Noticias Financieras reports: “Talks between the National Paro Committee and the government are stalled because unions demand exclusive negotiation and refuse to be part of a dialogue with employers and guilds that Duque convened as part of a “Great Conversation National””. 

A protester called Dilan Cruz has died after being hit with a police projectile.

As the protests led a fifth day on November 26, an activist lay in agony after being hit with a police missile. The protests intensified then, and have reached new proportions after Cruz died. Police tactics have been judged as way too harsh and disproportionate to the nature of the demonstrations. For example, the authorities used tear gas to disperse a crowd while the national anthem was being sung in front of the central bank headquarters. 

Remember his name: Dilan Cruz. He has become a symbol of the protest movement in Colombia.

Dilan Cruz grabbed a tear gas canister and threw it back at the police. Seconds later a shot was heard and he lay on the ground amidst screams from fellow protesters. He spent two days in hospital but died from the bullet he received in the head, according to reports from BBC. Dilan was only 18-years-old and had graduated from high school in the public institution Colegio Ricaurte the same day on which he died (talk about a cruel twist of fate). There have been dozens of reports of police brutality during these tense days in Colombia, but Dilan has become the flag of the movement. 

“Dilan vive, Dilan vive” is the new protest battle cry… 

Dilan’s classmates led protests towards the hospital where he died. With cries of “Dilan lives, Dilan lives” they denounced the human rights violations that activists have been subject to before and during the protests. On the corner of 19 and 4, which is generally a chaotic area of the capital city, there are memorials including candles, posters and graffiti. Dilan’s death also lead to a national strike. 

President Duque has extended his condolences… yes, really.

The president tweeted a message to the victim’s mother, grandfather and sisters. He also promised that an investigation would be launched to clarify the incident. However, some conservative voices have already started victim blaming, saying that since Dilan was a minor he should have been at home, and that the blame lays with his parents. 

Dilan will live forever as an icon of the protest movements.

Credit: somos_ugc / Instagram

Every movement or revolution has an icon. Dilan Cruz has become a martyr and his name will always be associated with social struggle and a watershed moment in which violence escalated and the world started to turn its eyes to 2019 Colombia and its many injustices, but also its voices of hope.