Video of an incident involving a black teenage girl and several members of Washington DC’s metro transit police has authorities facing intense criticism and accusations of excessive force.
According to the description of the video posted to YouTube on Tuesday:
(Name witheld)…was commuting home with her friends from Bell High School. She was walking to the metro gates with a bag of chips and lollipop then stopped by transit police because she had food. That’s all the back story I was able to get from her and her friends. When filming started after they had already handcuffed her.
In the footage, which was shared by the Washington DC chapter of the Black Lives Matter Network, the unnamed teen is shown standing until a officer grasps her by the arm, and kicks her leg out from under her in an attempt to seat her on the ground. When she tries to stand again, the officer puts his hand on her shoulder and pushes her back down.
Police later confirmed to the Washington Post that the girl shown was 18 years old.
It’s official Metro Transit policy to ban all food and drink from both trains and stations. As the Metrorail rules state:
Don’t eat, drink, smoke or litter on Metro vehicles or in stations. Metro Transit Police issue citations or make arrests to enforce the law.
The MTPD police report, obtained by Think Progress, states that the incident started after the girl “responded with a defiant ‘no!” when asked by officers to get rid of her bag of chips after entering the station.
At one point, in the footage, a bystander is shown arguing with the police as they detain the teen, asking them why they didn’t simply confiscate the illicit snacks, and exclaiming “it’s a little girl!”
“Little girls can break the law! Little girls can get arrested like everybody else!” an officer responds. “And she goes to juvenile detention and her mom comes and picks her up. That’s how it works!”
A second video of the incident shows the teen being lead out of the Columbia Heights station in handcuffs, and held against a police SUV as officers search her pockets. According to the Washington Post, she was arrested for “unlawful entry.”
This is far from the first time Metro Transit police have been accused of overreacting to a seemingly minor infraction. In 2000, 12-year-old Ansche Hedgepeth was arrested for eating a french fry at the Tenleytown-AU Station—a product of a since-changed policy that any minor convicted of an offense must be taken into custody. Outcry at Hedgepeth’s arrest helped prompt a revision to that policy, and now MTPD can issue written warnings to juveniles found snacking on the subway.
In 2004, 45-year-old Stephanie Willett was warned by police to finish her PayDay candy bar before entering DC’s Metro Center Station. Willet put the last of the candy in her mouth and continued toward her train. There, she was arrested, simply for chewing the remaining candy bar after having passed through the station’s entrance gate.
A Metro Transit official confirmed to ThinkProgress this week that the department would not be pursuing charges against the unnamed teen. Speaking with the Post, Metro spokesperson Richard L. Jordan declined to answer whether the arresting officers used excessive force.