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MBTA needs to stop overpolicing Black and brown riders

Dwaign Tyndal
MBTA needs to stop overpolicing Black and brown riders

A recent Boston Globe article shows that Black and Latinx riders on the subway account for almost two-thirds of fare-evasion citations from police — despite being just one-third of subway riders.

The MBTA police have a history of targeting Black and brown riders, even as they’ve improved in some areas. It’s time for transit justice, and that means the T needs to make some important changes:

Fully decriminalize fare evasion: reduce fines and stop arresting folks for lacking ID

Implement the discounted-fare system we’ve been asking for, or remove fees altogether

Currently, riders are hit with fines of $100 to $600 for fare evasions. Those amounts are preposterous and draconian. And they promote a culture of policing and punishment.

Recently, in June, we saw a stark reminder of what “enforcement” can look like, as an MBTA police officer confronted a Black man at Forest Hills, put a knee on his back, pushed his head into the pavement, dragged him — and then filed a misleading police report saying the man had fallen over.

And that comes after a 2014 incident where MBTA police beat and pepper-sprayed a Black woman at Dudley Square just for calling 911 to report the police mistreating another Black woman.

While the MBTA police have made some progress, things would be much better if enforcing fare violations just wasn’t their job. That’s why Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) is speaking out to the MBTA and Transit Police leaders: Overpolicing Black and brown folks needs to stop, and policies need to change.

We envision a better world: public transit should be convenient, safe, affordable and easily accessible for everyone, particularly in lower-income communities and communities of color, where car ownership is less common and environmental injustice is already severe. That’s what the T Riders Union is fighting for.

But we won’t get there unless the MBTA leadership shows it’s on board and starts listening to Black and brown riders.

Dwaign Tyndal is executive director of Alternatives for Community and Environment.

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