Thousands of people have been watching a video of an arrest in downtown Minneapolis. It starts with a black woman being pushed up against the side of a bus shelter by a white Metro Transit officer. One one of her hands is behind her back. The other is holding an ID card.
“He just asked me for my ID, and then I gave it to him, and then he grabbed me,” she says.
“I saw that,” an unseen bystander says.
The scene gets louder and louder as people offscreen start shouting—that what the officer was doing wasn’t “fair,” that it was “disgusting.”
“Ask her what she just said on the bus,” the officer says.
One bystander is heard to say: “Let’s not bring race into it, because race had nothing to do with it."
Another approaches the woman, and from there the scene descends into chaos. She begins to scream as the officer wrangles her to the ground. “Back off!” the officer shouts, and another cop appears, taser in hand. The two begin cuffing her as the yelling in the background intensifies.
“She didn’t do shit," one person says. "He asked her for her fucking ID.”
“Why’d he ask her for her ID?”
“Because he’s a fucking cop,” a voice snaps back. “She didn’t do shit but standing here waiting on her fucking bus.”
The video zooms in on the officer as the woman is pulled to her feet, his hands on his hips, his brow knitted.
Posted by Ronnae Reynolds on Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Metro Transit confirmed Monday the officer in the video is Tim Lawrence, a six-year veteran of the department who serves Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, and Metro Transit's "Officer of the Year" in 2017. Lawrence received that recognition for “compassion, having a strong work ethic, and approaching his work with a calm demeanor," according to the citation.
“You just treat everybody how you want to be treated,” he said in a video about him receiving the honor. “Treat them like a human being.”
This is far from the first time Metro Transit has been called out for the over-policing certain of its passengers. In 2015, it released a months-long data analysis requested by the American Civil Liberties Union, confirming just how skewed its officers were against people of color. For first-time fare evasions, black people were 26 percent more likely to be cited than warned compared to whites, and Native Americans were 152 percent more likely to be ticketed.
A spokesperson for Metro Transit says the incident recorded last week happened Tuesday, August 21, around 7:30 a.m. on Eighth and Hennepin. The woman had been a passenger on a bus, and had reportedly called the bus driver a derogatory term. The spokesperson wouldn’t say which one, but offered to provide more information on that later, along with an arrest report.
Officers were called in for assistance, the spokesperson says, to de-escalate the situation. The officer was able to get the woman off the bus, but she shouted the derogatory term again as she was leaving.
After that, the officer asked her for her ID, which she retrieved, but didn’t hand over.
That, the spokesperson says, is where the video starts. The woman was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and spent several hours at the Hennepin County Jail.
The alleged mistreatment of a bus driver recalls recent high-profile incidents of passenger abuse. Last year alone, there were at least 73 assaults, 41 threats, and 34 instances of disorderly conduct on buses. Metro Transit is currently suffering from a chronic shortage of drivers, blamed in part on a series of attacks caught on video.
This recent arrest video has had over 815,000 views since Tuesday, and has inspired a planned protest featuring Black Lives Matter, among other organizations, and is calling for a one-day Metro Transit boycott, demanding the officers be fired for the way they “manhandled, arrested, threw to the ground, and humiliated an African American woman after asking for her ID.”
“We also demand that [Met Transit] Chief [John] Harrington and the Met Council answer for this abusive incident as well as the patterns of discrimination, harassment, racial profiling, and abuse that African Americans and other people of color routinely experience at the hands of Metro Transit police officers,” the boycott Facebook page says.