Responding to Intense Criticism, T Will Stop Bussing Cops to Protests

MBTA buses carrying police wait near the Heath Street Green Line stop on the evening of Thursday, June 4, as peaceful protesters gathered nearby. Photo courtesy of Jessica Feldish.
MBTA buses carrying police wait near the Heath Street Green Line stop on the evening of Thursday, June 4, as peaceful protesters gathered nearby. Photo courtesy of Jessica Feldish.

The MBTA will stop using its buses to transport police from other agencies to peaceful protests around Boston, according to an MBTA spokesperson.

In the past 24 hours, the agency had come under intense scrutiny from its workers, city officials, and its oversight board for using public transit vehicles as troop transports to peaceful protest sites around the city.

“We will not be silent: this is not okay,” wrote MBTA employees in an open letter to their boss, General Manager Steve Poftak, on Friday. The letter asks Poftak to “refuse to allow MBTA buses to be used in Boston Police and Mass State Police’s attacks on the people of Boston. Refuse to bring police and their weapons to protests. Refuse to transport any people they arrest.”

As of midday Friday, the letter had collected 57 signatures from MBTA workers across the agency.

Responding to a request for comment from StreetsblogMASS, MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo responded Friday afternoon to say that “at the direction of several members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, effective today, June 5, the MBTA will no longer provide transportation for non-MBTA law enforcement personnel to or from public demonstrations on MBTA buses.”

Also on Friday, Boston City Councilors Michelle Wu and Julia Mejia filed a resolution condemning “the weaponization of our transit system” and calling on the T “not to delegate command of transit employees, vehicles, facilities, and other resources” to the police.

The resolution also takes issue with the T’s recent decisions to close downtown subway stations after peaceful protests on Sunday and Tuesday evening – a decision that left thousands of riders stranded among crowds of the same belligerent police forces they had been protesting.

The five members of the MBTA’s governing board also reportedly met Thursday afternoon to formally direct the T to stop transporting police.

A few hours later, protesters saw several busloads of police being driven on MBTA vehicles to a peaceful protest site in Jamaica Plain (see photo above).

“As far as last night’s bus usage, it is my understanding that a request was made to move them last night so they would have time to find an alternative method of transportation going forward,” wrote Monica Tibbits-Nutt, and MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board member, in an email to Streetsblog on Friday.

“I continue to judge it inappropriate to redirect public transportation services to transporting the police, especially given the reason for the protests,” continued Tibbits-Nutt. “Black MBTA ridership skews heavily towards bus, so the use of buses for transporting police during protests against black-directed police violence feels particularly callous.”

 

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