Target: The Poor (Again)
Each month my employer gives me the option of purchasing a 30-day MetroCard. Because I use the train so often it is a no-brainer for me to buy the card. When you swipe a MetroCard at a turnstile, you can’t use again for something like 15 minutes (it may be a bit longer, but not much). By the time I get off at the train station nearest my home from work, I usually encounter someone who does not have fare to get on the train and would like someone to “swipe” them on. I have absolutely no problem doing this. It costs me nothing and it helps someone get to where they are going as opposed to just lingering in a cold train station. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton has ordered his officers to arrest people who ask for “swipes” on the train. I think that is absolutely abhorrent. Does it really serve the public good to lock people up for what amounts to panhandling? Some will say but what about the fake homeless advocates who ask for money, the dancers who use the standing poles as props and blast loud music during their routines, or the beggars who board overcrowded trains at rush hour, etc. To me, that is all different from asking someone to swipe you on the train. And even those things in my opinion shouldn’t be enough to get you arrested. You want to fine folks in this position monetarily, okay, but to send them to a bullpen lockup and have them strip searched and processed in a police precinct is entirely too heavy handed and reeks of elitism.
We have seen this before from Bratton, so no one should be surprised, but it should make people think about Mayor DeBlasio who said he recognized the plight of those less fortunate in this city and pledged to ease their burden in measurable ways. He promised the city that the people Bratton refers to as “Shelter Resistant” (and for good reason if you ask me. The shelters here are terrible and dangerous) would not be forsaken.
Is this how he makes good on that promise? Come on man.
We have just finished 12 years with a Mayor who allowed his police force to step on, violate and push around the less fortunate and those who happen to be black/brown and male. Why does this feel like a continuation of that administration? The homeless/poor population of this city are not some alien race to be driven away or hidden in the dark corners and edges of our city. Nor should they fear a police force that is supposed to serve and protect them. They are by and large New Yorkers who need the help of other New Yorkers, I simply do not see how arresting them in this manner helps them. It would seem to me that the goal is not in fact to help them at all but rather to create the illusion that they do not exist. This is a goal I’m sure the privileged residents of this city supports and believes in. In fact, I’m sure somewhere, that evil man I referenced earlier is nodding his head in approval. And here we all thought Dante’s afro meant something.
I’m beginning to think we have all been had.
If you see someone in a train station just standing around in front of a turnstile, chances are that person needs a ride and does not want to ask out of fear of being arrested. I, for one, will be asking those I see in this situation if they need to get on the train. Not only do I think it is the right thing to do, but I think it is who we are as New Yorkers. We look out for each other here. I’m not sure what kind of city those in City Hall are trying to create, but a city that arrests the neediest among us for the crime of being poor is not one any of us should be comfortable living in.
I’ve been struggling with this. I also have a 30 day unlimited every month. It costs me nothing to swipe someone else in so it’ ought to be a no-brainer. But I’ve been told that those who swipe others in are committing a crime too. And when I see so many Black/Brown people arrested in my neighborhood for the minor crimes and the crime of being Black/Brown it makes me hesitant to help. But I’m going to do it from now on.