The rich ride for free, the po’ get po’liced: Mayor Lee orders Muni sweeps

by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia

“People are evading their fares. We are only here because the mayor wants to cut down on all the crime,” Officer Carrasco barked at me, while issuing a citation for alleged fare evasion to a young African-descendent student on his way to school. This young brother was one of over 25 people caught in a “sweep” – read invasion – of a Muni bus, who were pulled off the bus so citations could be issued.

SFPD Off. Carrasco issues Muni fare evasion citation Geary & Van Ness 0114, webCops were there like locusts, 15 deep between fare inspectors and SFPD officers swarming the Muni bus stop at Van Ness and Geary. The bus was loaded to the gills as it often is and people were getting on the back like we always do if there is no room at the front. For this insane, class-based “crime” we were cited.

As the police were following orders from Mayor Lee and harassing us po’ mamaz, youth, elders, working people and disabled houseless folks over an alleged two dollar crime, a monolithic, two story, steel-gray, Mercedes “bus” pulled up to the same stop, the door glided open softly like a digital chariot and three people, heads deep in I-phone love, rushed in. On the giant bus was an LED sign stating its corporate affiliation: Apple Shuttle.

At this point I turned to the army of police and wannabe police aka fare harassers and asked, “Why do the rich get to ride for free? How is that not a crime? Why don’t you give them a citation for fare evasion?” They looked at me blankly, deep in their hegemonic story of “crimes” and who commits them.

Notwithstanding the mayor’s fallacious claims of so-called “crimes” by us po’ and working folks on Muni, the trillion dollar tech-based corporations Google, Twitter, Apple, Genentech, EBay and many more are stealing this city blind, and the mayor has enabled, signed off and/or crafted the giant theft in his attempt to continue the Manhattenization of this increasingly rich-whites-only city.

While at the same time launching an all out class war to evict, destroy, beat down and eventually incarcerate anyone who isn’t part of their tech colonizer kingdom. But please don’t be mistaken: This did NOT begin with rich-people-loving Mayor Lee. Us po’ folks have been fighting the increases of Muni for a minute.

Since the increase in Muni fares in 2011 to $2, which several activists fought against, the fare inspectors and police started trolling the bus stops in poor communities of color like the Mission, Bayview and Tenderloin. They have been swarming the stops, getting on buses and incessantly harassing folks who are just trying to get to and fro.

All of these profiled so-called fare evasion crimes on us folks, especially youth of color, po’ mamaz, houseless folks and disabled elders culminated in the brutal assassination by police of Kenny Harding Jr. over a $2 transfer on July 16, 2011.

Recently, like the gentriFUKation, Ellis Act evictions and sit-lie citations of houseless folks, the “fare sweeps” police harassment has increased and, according to Officer Carrasco, the mayor has a new profiling effort going on. Funny, I didn’t get that memo.

Since the increase in Muni fares in 2011 to $2, which several activists fought against, the fare inspectors and police started trolling the bus stops in poor communities of color like the Mission, Bayview and Tenderloin.

Tony Robles, co-editor of POOR Magazine, reported a disabled elder being tackled to the ground last week by two SFPD officers for so-called fare evasion. Myself and Jewnbug of POOR Magazine have been harassed multiple times with all of the Family Project children, and Queenandi of POOR has witnessed multiple times the harassment, abuse, profiling and citing of recyclers and houseless elders.

The tech industry has earned more than $37 trillion this year, according to New Machine Age.

So as the trillion dollar tech industry rides on in their shiny buses, completely for free, paying nothing, taking more and more real jobs away from real people, giving fewer and fewer people more and more blood-stained dollars to hoard, while also giving our real, union-paid jobs to robots and technology, evicting more and more of us working folks to make way for the rich elite to live.

All of these profiled so-called fare evasion crimes on us folks, especially youth of color, po’ mamaz, houseless folks and disabled elders culminated in the brutal assassination by police of Kenny Harding Jr. over a $2 transfer on July 16, 2011.

The message is crystal clear: Our poor bodies, our children’s bodies, our mama bodies, our elder bodies, our disabled bodies must pay, must leave, must be incarcerated – and are ultimately irrelevant.

Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor with Tony Robles of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at deeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit www.tinygraygarcia.com and www.racepovertymediajustice.org.