Ademir’s Story – Policing on the Metro

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“Ademir’s Story – Policing on the Metro”

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My name is Ademir Aguilar. I am a student at the Youth Justice Coalition’s FREE LA High School.

Last month, I was on the train – on the Green Line. The Sherriffs are always just hanging out at the station – deep. I passed by, and they asked to check my tap card. I had my tap card on me, but it had run out. They said that I was just using it as an excuse not to pay my fare. I was like – “It literally just ran out. I had it for a month.” But they didn’t believe me no matter what I said.

Every day, the sheriffs on the Metro line us up – mostly Black and Brown youth – and check our tap cards. A lot of the treatment is rough. We get treated like criminals, even though we are just students struggling to get enough money together to pay for transportation to and from school. Sometimes they stop buses and pull youth off. We get tickets. We are late to school. Sometimes, we are patted down (frisked) and searched. Some youth are arrested, when they challenge why they are being stopped. All this treatment increases youth anger and fear toward law enforcement.

Transportation to and from school is necessary. It’s a necessity. We need it. You want people to come to school. But we need a form of transportation.

My school – FREE LA High School at the Youth Justice Coalition – can sometimes give out free Metro passes. But it’s too expensive for schools to make happen on a regular basis. Most school districts in LA only transport students with disabilities. (Imagine the struggle for families with more than one student!) The school bus stereotype doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a blessing to get a free bus pass, but it should be a right.

The LA County Sheriffs Department gets more than $110 million a year from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to handle “public safety” on the trains and buses. But if the MTA took less than 20% of that money, we could provide every student in LA County – pre-school through college – free transportation. That would get us back and forth to school – increasing attendance and graduation rates, and also increasing state funding that goes to schools for “average daily attendence” – funds we need to make our schools even better quality. And a Metro pass would also get us to jobs, health clinics, museums, parks and beaches – every positive thing LA has. Instead, too many poor and working class youth are trapped in a small area – totally cut off from all resources and opportunities.

Last year, as part of our organizing to challenge the criminalization of youth, the Youth Justice Coalition fought for, AND WON, a diversion from court and fines for youth fare evasion tickets – that represented the #1 cause of ticketing for youth under the age of 18 in LA County – 10,000 tickets a year!!! We also just won amnesty for 250,000 past tickets issued to youth (for all kinds of infractions) that the court and Probation have been too slow to clear. But expensive fare evasion tickets are still issued to youth 18 and over. If you can’t pay, it blocks access to a driver’s license and can lead to a warrant and jail time! And the diversion program doesn’t eliminate the sheriffs stopping and questioning of youth about our fare. The harsh treatment of all youth of color still remains.

So, we are fighting for a FREE STUDENT PASS to end the criminalization of youth for fare evasion, and to give all youth full transportation access to our county. We are pushing the MTA, and we are working to pass a state law. But, we need your help! Please support our Free Student Metro Pass Campaign as well as other YJC efforts to keeping youth out of the courts and out of the jails and prisons.

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