New York City is famous for its international foods. You can score the best Italian pizza, authentic Chinese food in Chinatown, and the most delicious tamales and churros made by Mexican vendors all in one day. In fact, the churros sold in New York City subways are a staple of eating-on-the-go, especially when the trains are delayed (which is always). On Saturday, during a frosty New York City evening, a Latina was selling churros at the Broadway Junction in Brooklyn when a group of New York Police officers apprehended her and confiscated her churro cart.
Every documented white American who makes a living selling "Mexican" food should be in the subway fighting police who arrest churro vendors.
— aléxandros! (@bodega_gyro_ao) November 9, 2019
The entire incident was captured on a cellphone by 23-year-old Sofia B. Newman. She tweeted, “Tonight as I was leaving Broadway Junction, I saw three or four police officers (one of them was either a plainclothes cop or someone who worked at the station) gathered around a crying woman and her churro cart. Apparently, it’s illegal to sell food inside train stations. They were telling her that she could either give them her churro cart and receive a fine (one that she probably wouldn’t have been able to afford), or that they would take her cart and arrest her. She kept trying to speak to one of the cops in Spanish, but the plainclothes cop kept rolling his eyes and saying things like, ‘Are you done?’ and ‘I know you can speak English.’ Eventually, they cuffed her and unceremoniously dragged her and her cart away.”
Newman has remained an advocate and continued to tweet updates about the incident the entire weekend. Newman, who now has the counsel of a lawyer, filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to get the official police report over the incident.
The subway ovepolicing we’ve been watching in recent days shows how cruel & corrosive criminalizing poverty is.
We don’t want to be a city where we pay public servants to arrest churro vendors.
But we are.
Thanks @SofiaBNewman for standing up for her, and our better selves. https://t.co/wZcGd60kgK
— Brad Lander (@bradlander) November 9, 2019
The NYPD released a statement saying, “Regarding the vendor our officers approached at the Broadway Junction station: She was not arrested, she received a summons. She’s received ten summonses in the past six months, and both English & Spanish speaking officers spoke with her. When she still refused to comply, she was briefly cuffed, her property was invoiced, and she was released from the Transit District shortly thereafter with another summons…Our officers have been responding to a number of recent complaints of violations at this station, including the unlawful and unlicensed sale of food and other products.”
While New York City has strict permits and licenses to sell food on the street (and to sell any merchandise in public spaces), people are saying targeting marginalized people for nonserious offensives is wrong. The NYPD is facing scrutiny over its tactics of going after minority passengers and also targeting the poor. New Yorkers also recently protested the NYPD after they installed cameras at the turnstiles to prevent people from not paying the subway fare. People on social media say the police need to focus on actual crimes.
People are organizing another rally today to protest the overuse of police officers and are demanding better transportation.
RALLY❗️We’re coming together to say NO to over-policing and to tell Governor Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) to cancel the 500 new cops and invest in more buses, trains and service instead!
— 🚇 Riders Alliance (@RidersAlliance) November 10, 2019
Newman tweeted last night, “The goal at this point is to be able to provide this woman with resources, e.g. getting her property back and paying whatever fines she may have. The moment we get more info about how to help her, I will let you all know.”
Now that is how white people should be advocating for women of color.