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Activists Give Out Free Subway Swipes in Queens to Protest NYPD Crackdowns

By Katie Honan | August 19, 2016 2:26pm | Updated on August 22, 2016 8:51am
 An activist swipes in a straphanger early Friday at the Junction Boulevard 7 train station in Corona.
An activist swipes in a straphanger early Friday at the Junction Boulevard 7 train station in Corona.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CORONA — Activists gave out free MetroCard swipes on the 7 train Friday to protest what they called unfair fare-beating policing that targets minority communities.

The demonstration was organized in part by ICE-Free Queens and Queens Neighborhoods United, who gathered at 8 a.m. at the Junction Boulevard with a dozen protesters using their MetroCards to swipe other people in — which the NYPD considers a ticketable offense for theft of service.

"The particular importance of this movement is to recognize that there is almost 30,000 transit arrests across the city and 92 percent are people of color," said Shannon Jones, who came from The Bronx.

"The NYPD routinely targets people who swipe others on."

A group of NYPD officers were at the station on Friday set up behind a bag check table but the officers did not intervene except to ask advocates not to yell loudly.

There were no arrests during the protest, which lasted less than an hour.

Activists were out in Harlem earlier this month swiping through straphangers to protest the "broken windows policing" that has resulted in 29,000 arrests, they said.

"We are here at Junction Boulevard specifically because we always see undercover [officers] here," Tania Mattos, from Queens Neighborhoods United, said Friday.

"Our community is a very poor community, one of the poorest in the city. We're here to bring attention and to ask the NYPD to stop criminalizing our communities." 

In Corona and other immigrant communities, a theft of service summons could affect a person's immigration — even if it is from a misunderstanding, Mattos said.

"We've seen many situations where a MetroCard isn't working, but someone needs to get to work," so they ask for a swipe, she added.

One straphanger, who declined to give his name, said he received a summons for an illegal swipe after someone offered him one as his card wasn't working.

Someone saw him by the turnstile and asked him if he wanted to get in.

"I said, yea, of course. He did it without asking, and the police just stopped me, and they gave me a ticket because they thought I was asking for a free ride," he said."That day I lost my job because I got a ticket because they wouldn't let me go."

Mattos said the movement is to encourage people to swipe in fellow New Yorkers if they have an unlimited card.

"Swipe it forward for other people, swipe it forward to help someone," she said. 

Jones said that the work is addressing a real need in their neighborhoods, which will only be more necessary once the fare is raised to $3. 

"We're not doing charity, we're doing unity in the community," she said.