Protests have grown exponentially in New York City after subway fares increased once again and Governor Andrew Cuomo deployed 500 cops to the MTA stations to specifically target those who may be evading transit fares. Since the fares shot up to $2.75, numerous young men of color have been brutally harassed and arrested by NYPD for transit non-crimes with one of those men being 19-year-old Adrian Napier, who was seated on a crowded train when cops rushed toward him, pointing their drawn guns at the unarmed young person. Still sitting but with his hands in the air, Adrian was shoved to the ground and arrested by NYPD because the department claimed he had three outstanding warrants and had previously jumped the turnstiles to get away from the police. On that day alone, a handful of NYPD officers could have shot and killed Adrian or any other person in the vicinity over a $2.75 transit fare. Similarly, two teenagers in Queens were held on the ground, tased, and arrested for transit evasion while in Brooklyn, the NYPD punched several teenagers in the face because they suspected the kids of evasion and other “crimes.”
According to the Daily Beast, “This summer, Gov. Cuomo announced a new campaign against fare-beating and assaults on transit workers. Cuomo claimed a link between people who skipped fares and people who attacked subway employees, although the correlation might be more tenuous than he suggested; a Cuomo spokesperson later told The New York Times that many people involved in subway crimes had also failed to pay their fares. (This trend does not suggest fare-beating causes attacks on transit workers.)” Cuomo also placed 500 cops in areas with significantly highers amounts of fare evasion, which are disproportionately Black, Brown, and poor. Along with the cops, many MTA stations presented newly installed security cameras facing the turnstiles to catch anyone who tries to evade transit costs.
I obviously believe that New York City would be much safer without every single NYPD officer (abolish police!), and the mass of protesters fighting against the law enforcement officers who’ve used their power and authority to threaten, brutalize, and harass Black people for a made up rule. Transit in not only New York but also in cities and towns across the US should be free of all costs. No one should be criminalized or sent in to the prison system because of their socioeconomic status. Treating transit evaders as criminals over $2.75 is an outrageous move by Cuomo and the NYPD, worsening the divide between classes in the city. Instead of adding more people to the incarceration monster because they don’t have money, Cuomo does the typical Democrat dance of trying to ease tension before representing the Republican questions. Everyone should be entitled to their own healthcare, food, housing, and a safe place to ride the MTA. Criminalizing poverty will never end well and will only lead to more brave and brilliant NYC residents jumping turnstiles en masse and providing subway swipes to people who need it. Why don’t they pour the money they’re spending on an extra 500 cops in the subway stations into community organizations that work with low income and houseless citizens and/or to the community bail funds that help secure these incarcerated boys’ releases after jail? Transit fares should be free for every single person, but until then, more people of color will be brutalized and hurt by this system that hates them.