Police Overreach? LA Subway

When the police single out someone for a minor infraction, things sometimes get ugly.

Arrested person 1: An 18-year old woman on her way to work. She put her foot on the seat in front of her. When the transit policeman told her to take it down, she didn’t.

Arrested person 2: Another young adult woman who defended her, after a policeman dragged her off the train.

There were several witnesses. A few got off the train when the younger woman was forced off the train. More than one videoed the altercation.

What happened?

Video began before any physical contact. The policeman was yelling at a young woman who refused to take her foot off the seat.

The video showed that the policeman did not allow her to get her things, as he bodily forced her to get off the train.

Is it a crime to put your foot on the seat in a Los Angeles subway? Apparently it is. So is chewing gum on the subway. Here are all the rules. (link) 

➢No placing feet on seats or furnishings

These rules carry fines up to $1000 and a year in jail. The officer was annoyed at the young woman’s defiance. Peace on the train would have been best served by him writing her a ticket. He, instead, chose to show force and evict her.

Had bystanders not come off the train with the young woman, the incident would have ended there, with an 18-year old in handcuffs and tears. The young woman was lucky that there were multiple witnesses and a video to demonstrate just how overpowered she was by transit police. She was very distressed and near tears when she was handcuffed. When another woman stood by her, the young woman regained her composure.

The woman who stood up for her did a number of things right. She did not approach the officer. Did not threaten him physically. She stood in a powerful stance, she looked right at him. But she did one thing wrong. She used profanity and disrespectful language. That made her “unruly” and subject to arrest. She was unprepared to be arrested along with the woman who was being arrested for putting her foot on the seat.

Here’s the video: (link) 

Did the seven policemen who arrested the two young adult women overreact? Probably.

Does the video help the women’s cases? Probably not. It bears witness and proves how much force the LA transit cops will wield when they choose to flex their muscles. That’s good to know. Those officers have reasons to be embarrassed. But, the video also bears witness against the women who were arrested. The younger woman refused to obey a transit rule, she resisted arrest, and she used profanity and was unruly. The taller woman also used profanity and did not obey the instruction of the transit police, when she was told to stay out of it. All that was captured on the video.

The man who made the video is white and Christian. He spoke to the transit police on the video. He was not arrested. He committed no crime. Had he also used profanity; he might have been arrested, too. He did not. One would think that the transit police would try to find an excuse to arrest the person videoing this scene. Was whiteness his protection? We don’t know.

Do you think the officer was out of bounds? Did he persist with demanding she take her foot down because she was Latina? Or he didn’t like the buttons on her jacket? Or he doesn’t like teenagers? We’ll never know. But the initial punishment (being ejected from the train) appears to be beyond what was necessary to keep the peace on that train.

The tall woman, who came forward to defend the 18-year old, was arrested that day. Her name is Selena. Someone set up a Go Fund me for her bail fees. Some things I realize immediately about this is that the person or people who set up the Go Fund Me are not familiar with the legal system. They thought that $20,000 bail meant someone had to write a check for the full $20,000 to get her out of jail. They actually need 10%. (This speaks to someone not familiar with being arrested. Selena and her support network haven’t had regular brushes with law enforcement.)

There is no follow up as to whether the charges were dropped for her, or the young woman who put her foot on the seat.

Here’s the Twitter feed of the man who made the video.


Losing your s–t in front of a uniformed policeman is not going to go in your favor.

Allies who video should focus on the behavior of the police, so the video record cannot be used against the person being arrested.

I love Selena! She stands up for her sisters. She stands strongly; she has good nonverbal communication of confidence and power. But, she needs to learn how to speak to power in ways that won’t get her arrested.



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