Protesters disrupted Metro Transit services Tuesday, August 28, in response to the arrest of an African American woman last week by Metro Transit police.
“There will be no business as usual for Metro Transit today,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong as she gathered with local activists at the Hennepin Avenue Station in downtown Minneapolis, temporarily delaying Blue and Green light rail service.
In an August 21 video, 38-year-old Kenya Chandler is shown being thrown onto the ground and handcuffed by Sgt. Tim Lawrence after the bus driver called in complaints for rude behavior. In the video, Chandler can be seen crying out in pain while clinging to the bus shelter with one arm as Lawrence pulls on her other arm.
The now-viral video, which has been viewed more than 830,000 times on Facebook and 2.5 million times on Twitter, has sparked community outrage and served as a catalyst for the one-day boycott of both buses and trains.
“The incident that happened last week is part of a pattern of ongoing abuses that have impacted people of color,” Levy Armstrong told the MSR. “The Metro Transit police have not been held accountable for these abusive practices and this is unacceptable.”
Several activist groups organized the protest, including Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, Native Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Blue Lies Matter, Racial Justice Network and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar.
“This is a great show of solidarity amongst a variety of groups who have been working to combat police violence,” said Levy Armstrong.
Though the rain deterred a large crowd from forming, the small group of protesters managed to delay light rail track service for nearly two hours. Organizers teamed with volunteers to give stranded riders alternative travel options, as well as paid for Uber rides.
Some riders were unhappy about not having the choice of riding the bus or train. “I support you. I mean, I’m cool that you guys got me an Uber now and I completely support it,” said one rider impacted by the protest. “But you guys are doing it in front of the tracks.”
“We thought that it was important to send a message to the Met Council and the Metro Transit that we are not going to tolerate abuse and violence against African Americans and other people of color who utilize the buses or trains for transportation,” said Levy Armstrong.
Metro Transit, which had remained silent on the incident until the day before the planned boycott, released a statement on August 27. “At Metro Transit, we take seriously the safety of our riders, our operators and our police officers, which is why we immediately initiated an investigation upon learning of this incident,” said Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington in a statement.
“That investigation continues,” said Harrington. “We are committed to the respect of riders, operators and all employees and are looking forward to the investigation’s completion.”
Levy Armstrong, however, called for the immediate dismissal of the arresting officer, citing numerous incidents of “zero accountability.” “We want the officer fired,” she said. “We want Chief John Harrington and the Met Council to answer for this abuse of power, as well as the other patterns of abuse at the expense of African Americans and other people of color who take the Metro Transit.”
“This is a pattern,” she continued. “They arrested her, they humiliated her, and we are fed up with the Jim Crow-like policies and practices being levied against African Americans and people of color.”
Tuesday’s protest follows a stream of protests throughout the state in response to police violence. Nearly 50 protesters took to the streets outside the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, August 25.
“We deserve to be treated equally,” said Levy Armstrong, who also called for community members to get involved and attend future Met Council meetings. “We need to show up and apply pressure and let our voices be heard.”
The organizations plan on holding more “economic boycotts” to demand Met Council change its arresting policies.
Press play below to watch the video.