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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