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Happy Holidays

Shoppers getting trampled at Target in North Buffalo.

This is what the holidays are about right?

Is the Buffalo NFTA Transit System Biased Against The Working Class/Minorities?

In regards to my last post someone left a comment that I felt I should respond to:
Comment: “It can’t possibly be that the increased police presence due to an increased volume of people who would be drinking at the game and might get rowdy on the way back.   Oh, no, it obviously had to be race. And not everyone from Amherst who is white is rich.”
I agree I do think some of the police presence was due to increased number of people on the train, and a legitimate concern for safety. And if taken solely as an isolated incident that would explain everything, but I believe the situation needs to be put into the context of the NFTA public transportation system as a whole and its normal day to day operations. I do not support the idea that those who run the public transportation are racist; I believe they simply do not realize how their actions affect the working class/minorities.

The NFTA Committee Meeting... sadly I don't see any minorities on this committee

Let me start with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. “Urban transit system in most American cities… have become a genuine civil rights issue-and a valid one-because the layout of rapid-transit systems determines the accessibility of jobs to the Black community. If transportation system in American cities could be laid out so as to provide an opportunity for poor people to get meaningful employment, then they could begin to move into the mainstream of American life. A good example of this problem is my home city of Atlanta, where the rapid-transit system has been laid out for the convenience of the white upper-middle-class suburbanites who commute to their jobs downtown. The system has virtually no consideration for connecting the poor people with their jobs. There is only one possible explanation for this situation, and that’s the racist blindness of city planners.”

This directly relates to Buffalo, which houses a system primarily used by poor blacks but is laid out in a way that benefits upper-middle-class suburbanites. The park-and-ride set up of the train allows those from the suburbs drive to the subway and then easily access the limited number of jobs downtown (HSBC, M&T, etc.) and visit entertainment venues that predominantly visited by upper-middle-class white suburbanites (HSBC Arena, etc.). As the city has become hollow and more and more jobs are located in the suburbs the layout of the city/ transit system makes it difficult for minorities and the poor reach their (potential) places of employment. The open spaces of suburbia are notoriously difficult to navigate via bus/train and usually involve transferring buses or from train to bus. A research study of Buffalo documented that a black woman commuting from the city to get to her job in the suburbs spent the longest amount of time (not distance) traveling to work (Johnston-Anumonwo 1990).

So as a whole we can see the majority of users may be poor/minorities but the system is set up for the convenience of suburbanites (white affluent people) entering the city rather than those leaving it (poor blacks).

Now that we see that the layout of public transit is set up in a way that benefits those from the suburbs it may be reasonable to assume that safety measures on the train at set up in similar manner. Especially when we add in all the social research that points towards the police/justice system being biased against minorities (i.e. 80% of cocaine users are white while 80% of arrests are black, DUIs, a crime that is predominantly perpetrated by whites has a much lower punishment than that of other dangerous actions involving drugs/intoxication, etc.)

From my personal experiences while riding the subway/buses for the past three years I usually see the cops in University station on special events nights. While doing this they are assisting people in where to go, and like last night checking bags. These cops are presenting themselves as precautionary and as people that want to assist the citizens (fans). I have not yet seen the fare checker or the police on the train directly before/during/after a special event. I’ve seen fans drinking on the train, and partaking in activities that are not allowed on the train, especially during peak times of travel. These cops are not out to catch the fans doing wrong, but they are out to make them feel safe.

In many cases (not all) this opposed to how the police appear when regulating the subway system on the average day/night. I see them on the train right after the black high school kids get out of school, in order to make sure they are under control. Drinking on the train would not be tolerated at this peak travel time, because the cops are on the train supervising the average riders, opposed to the fans where police presence is at the station not on the train. I also see officers at Utica station (a station used by predominantly by blacks) checking people’s tickets to make sure they have paid. The police generally have a much more protective persona on special events nights than on normal days when they are trying to catch people doing something wrong.

Buffalo Cops, Illegal Loud Talking, and the “List”

…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.

Jake Donnelly at the Berrics

…go check it out  http://www.theberrics.com/dailyopspost.php?postid=852

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