Last Tuesday, I took part in the second Swipe It Forward protest action, organized by Bob Gangi and others of PROP (Police Reform Organizing Project), together with fellow activists, to protest harmful and discriminatory policing.
In 2015, the NYPD made 29,198 arrest – 92 percent involving people of colour – for ‘theft of services’ or ‘farebeating’. In simple words: people did not pay for a ticket to use the subway but jumped the turnstile instead or asked fellow passengers for a swipe (‘begging’). People also get fined or arrested for ‘obstructing the entrance’ while asking for a swipe.
“Isn’t that against the rules, to jump the turnstile?”, a woman asked me, while I was handing out fliers with information about the protest at the Crown Heights-Utica Avenue station in Brooklyn. Well, yes, in principle everybody should pay for a ride. But should people get arrested for not paying 2.75 dollar, and spend a day in jail and miss work or school? And if people cannot afford to pay for transport, how will they be able to pay the fine (100 dollar or more) and fees?
What is particularly outrageous, is that the police is present deliberately and only at train stations in neighbourhoods where many people are living in poverty – and, thus, many people of colour live. However, people do not jump the turnstile or ask others for a swipe for fun: often they cannot afford to pay 2.75 (5.50, if you include the ride back home). Furthermore, instead of deterring farebeating by being visible at train stations, police officers hide in corners and behind walls, only to appear when they see someone violating the rules.
PROP’s action is to swipe people in for free (paying for their ride), in order to demand that the police stop arresting people, to raise awareness for discriminatory and harmful policing, to show our support to people who have been arrested, and to ask people who can afford it to Swipe It Forward.
Image: photo of the flier, made by PROP.