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In Washington DC, Metro Transit Police are being criticized by the Black Lives Matter movement following the release of an amateur video that captured the arrest of a black girl at the Columbia Heights Metro station in the nation’s capital.

It was posted by Black Lives Matter DC on October 18. According to Metro Police, the girl refused to discard a bag of chips and a lollipop while waiting on a platform for a train. Eating and drinking are prohibited to all passengers riding on the extensive urban transit system. Smoking and littering are also prohibited, according to the Metro website.

The girl in question was arrested for unlawful entry to the Metro system. However, Metro Police declined to file charges against her. One of the police officers is white, while the other is black.

Metro Transit Police are being criticized for the use of excessive force in arresting the 18-year-old girl. Amateur video showed an officer pushing and tripping the high school student, who fell to the floor after refusing to discard her snacks. Just inside the fare gates at the station, one officer tells the hand-cuffed girl, "Alright, sit down!" The teen replied, "No!" The officer then hooked his arm behind her elbow and kicks backward against her calf, knocking her to the ground as people watched and record the incident. The girl propped herself against the wall, while the officer pushes her back down and orders her "Sit down!" She then shouted, "Stop touching me!"
 
The girl refused to tell the officers her age or provide her student identification. An officer searched her backpack. She demanded to know why her bag was being searched, and asked a friend to remove it. "You didn't have to put it that tight," she said, in an apparent reference to the handcuffs encircling her wrists. 
The person who posted the video on YouTube said in a description that the girl in question is 17, not 18 years old and is a student at Bell Multicultural High School. The description alleged that the officer "slammed her against the car" while she was transported to a police station.
 
The officer who knocked the teenager to the floor instructed the gathering crowds to board the train or leave the station, telling them “Thanks for riding Metro,” he says. “You guys have a good day.” In the video, one bystander explained that the teen had been detained for a bag of chips and a lollipop. “Oh, goodness. Because she had a lollipop? That is outrageous,” says one person, who adds, “That is ridiculous.”
Some of the witnesses spoke directly to the officers. “You could have told her to put it away, or [taken] the lollipop . . . that is crazy,” says one. In response, the officer told the crowd, “Well, we asked her for the lollipop, we asked her for the food, and she refused and told me she wasn’t going to do it,” adding, “That’s why she’s under arrest.”
“It’s a little girl!” says a bystander. “Little girls can break the law! Little girls can get arrested like everybody else!” the officer responds. “And she goes to juvenile detention and her mom comes and picks her up. That’s how it works!”
 
Metro Police has arrested people in the past for snacking in the transportation system. For example, more than 10 years ago, a 45-year-old employed by the Environmental Protection Agency was arrested chewing on a candy bar while she passed through the fare gates. After paying a $10 fine, she was released several hours later. In a celebrated case, Metro cops arrested a 12-year-old girl in 2000 for eating a french fry at an underground station, making international news. Adults are usually issued a citation and fine, but she the girl was a minor and could not be fined, she was thus charged with a criminal offense and taken into custody. The case ended up in the U.S. Court of Appeals, leading MTA to change its policy, mandating that minors found snacking on trains must receive three written warnings before being charged. 
 
Of late, there has been a disturbing spike in the crime rate in and around Metro stations and bus stops in the District of Columbia. For example, 15-year-old John Rufus Evans III, a black boy, was stabbed to death at the Deanwood Metro station, while just two weeks earlier 15-year-old Davonte Washington was shot to death at the same station. He was also black. Assaults have also spiked. In one case, a woman was raped in broad daylight at knifepoint on a Metro train near the Wheaton-­Glenmont station.
 
John Rufus Evans III
 
Reporter Courtland Malloy of The Washington Post noted in a report earlier this year that a meeting of community groups revealed growing fears within the urban black community over crime on the Metro. Malloy wrote, "Metro’s unreliable service was bad enough, but the specter of random violence was causing even more people to avoid the transit system, she said.
 
Riders complain of not knowing if arguments among school kids is just rowdy talk or a prelude to a killing. It did not go without notice that most of the violence was being perpetrated by black youths against other black youths." He quoted Jawauna Green, the black director of marketing for MTA, who expressed concern for the safety of her 65-year-old mother who is frightened by young persons having "loud, vulgar conversations, calling each other [racial and sexual slurs]." Green acknowledged that when she learned that her mother, who has "been pushed, assaulted, while riding a bus, that makes me angry.”

 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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