A video showing the arrest of a black woman by Metro Transit police officers that was widely shared on social media last week has prompted several activist groups to call a boycott of Metro Transit service Tuesday.
A bystander recorded Kenya Chandler, 38, of Minneapolis, being handcuffed and pushed to the ground by Metro Transit Police Sgt. Tim Lawrence at a downtown Minneapolis bus stop on Aug. 21. Chandler was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and released.
In a news release, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities said the video, which was viewed on Facebook 800,000 times, is indicative of “ongoing harassment and abuse of people of color” by Metro Transit police. The group is calling for the immediate dismissal of the officers involved, without pay.
Lawrence was Metro Transit’s 2017 officer of the year.
Metro Transit said in a statement that Chandler engaged in a “verbal altercation” with the bus driver, who alerted police. Once Chandler got off the bus, Metro Transit said Lawrence asked for her identification, but she refused to hand it over after taking it out of her purse.
The video shows a second, unidentified officer pressing what appears to be a Taser into Chandler’s shoulder while she was on the ground, but Metro Transit said the weapon was not discharged. Handcuffed, Chandler is screaming and crying on the video as bystanders grow increasingly angry.
Chandler could not be reached for comment Monday.
The Twin Cities Transit Riders Union said in a statement that “brutality is a larger issue throughout the force” and “systemic changes need to happen.” The transit advocacy group called for the Metropolitan Council to stop funding the Metro Transit police force.
Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said in a statement that the department takes “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.” Harrington added that the department “is committed to the respect of riders, operators and all employees.”
Activist groups had encouraged people to attend the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee meeting on Monday to express their opinions regarding the Metro Transit Police Department. But the meeting was canceled last week because there were few items on the agenda, said spokeswoman Kate Brickman.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney and activist, said the response to the boycott “has been tremendous, hundreds of people have said on social media they’re going to participate and dozens of volunteers have offered rides” to those participating.
In addition to Black Lives Matter Twin Cities, cosponsors of the boycott include Native Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Blue Lies Matter, Racial Justice Network and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar.