…ok, so I very rarely (if ever blog about myself) but today was just insane and I feel I have story worth blogging.
When entering a subway station in upstate New York I was met with a very unusual scene, unlike most nights when the station is nearly empty and predominately used by poor blacks, the subway was filled with lots of white people wearing Sabers jerseys.
The subway had been completely transformed for the affluent members of Erie county. The ticket booth, which is never open, was selling tickets, the lines in front of electronic kiosks were long (and moving slowly as many of these people unfamiliar with the interface) and there were about 7 to 9 cops in the station. These cops were placed within the station to make the affluent felt safe. For the short time they were to ride the subway they wouldn’t have to be afraid of the poor and underprivileged that usually use the transportation to get from place to place in a city designed for those with cars.
While waiting in line to purchase my ticket I helped a couple use the machine, then walked towards the escalator to go down to the train platform. At this point I was asked to place my bag on a table so the police could search it, while they were searching through my belongings, I asked why they were here today. They responded because of the game, and I said “No, how come I never see you, but today you’re here because lots of rich white people are using the subway?” This greatly upset them and I was asked present them with identification and step out of line.
I gave them school I.D. and my driver’s license and they pulled me over to the side and started to ask me questions. What I was doing? Where I was going? Where do I live? What’s my weight? What’s my phone number? What’s my race? I politely told them all of my information and said I just asked a simple question, why is there a stronger police presence when the rich white people are using the train and when the poor black people get out of high school (to control them rather than make them feel safe)? To which he responded by asking me if I was calling him a racist, I told him “No, I don’t think you’re a racist, because you don’t decide when you come here your boss does.”
This round about conversation continued as one of his partner’s went through my bag again, and told me that I was talking loud and “loud talking is illegal.” I looked at him puzzled and he went on to explain “you’re disturbing the peace and I can arrest you for that.” My question was disturbing the peace in a train station full of anxious hockey fans? I don’t think this is a part of the population known for their calmness or quietness. The cop told me he worked for Homeland Security and I should have kept quiet and not brought attention to myself because now I’m on a list and they are going to be checking my information and that I should expect a phone call from someone. I asked him what list? A phone call from who? At this point he told me he wasn’t going to answer any more questions, I said I think I have the right to ask questions and his partner said, “you also have the right to remain silent.” Then I was informed I could talk to the supervisor if I had a complaint.
When I said “Ok, I’m not going to make a complaint, but I am going to ask him a few questions” the cop approached me and came close very close to my face and then began to yell at the top of his lungs “If you want to make a scene, we can make a scene!” to which I politely responded “If you would like to make a scene, feel free to do so.”
The speaking to supervisor was of no help and did not give up any information of what this list was and what my information was going to be used for.
It was an interesting situation, yea it wasn’t smart to ask a cop why the police come out in full force to make the rich feel safe and are only on the subway to control the poor and try to catch them not paying their fare, but it was amazing how quickly the cop escalated the situation and tried to intimidate me. He identified himself with Homeland Security and threatened/informed me that I am now on a secret list and I should expect a phone call from an unknown individual, all while his partner tried to get me to react so he could arrest me. He was extremely rude and purposefully invaded my personal space in order to yell at me.
I think this is amazing really. Is it smart to question authority? No, but questioning authority is no reason for a cop to try to intimidate a citizen, or try intensify the situation solely to get a reaction of the citizen in order to find an excuse to arrest them. And to be threatened to be put on on a secret list… this simply boggles my mind. What country do we live in where citizens are put on or even threatened to be on secret lists? Secret lists a trait of authoritarian dictatorships not democracies.