May 27, 2024, Monday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Black-led women’s running group sues Newton police chief for alleged racial discrimination

The Nepal Weekly
April 16, 2024

Trailblaz Hers had organized a specific “cheer zone” in Newton at Mile 21 and had invited other running groups led by people of color to join, says the complaint. Over a hundred spectators, “mostly people of color,” had gathered there.

For the past four years, the group has gathered at Mile 21, the complaint states, and the marker is significant for the plaintiffs: “It stands as a key place where runners of color are acknowledged and celebrated,” helping create a “powerful and affirming experience for runners of color.”

The lawsuit details specific acts of alleged discrimination, claiming while White spectators were allowed to interact with and celebrate runners, non-White spectators at Mile 21 were harassed by police and told to stay back. The lawsuit includes photos that showed “human barricade” created by security officers and their bikes.

Police formed “a human barricade to physically separate the running crews of colors from the event,” states the complaint. “Similarly-situated white spectators received no such treatment.”

“For individual members, police profiling and scrutiny turns what should be a day of joy and festivity into one of pain, humiliation and trauma,” the complaint points out.

In addition to forming a human barricade between the spectators and the runners, police on motorcycles also “stationed themselves on the street behind the Plaintiffs’ cheer zone, effectively surrounding and penning in the people in the cheer zone of color.”

Shortly after the incident last year, Newton police said in a statement: “After being notified by the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) three times about spectators traversing the rope barrier and impeding runners, the Newton Police Department responded respectfully and repeatedly requesting that spectators stay behind the rope and not encroach onto the course,” according to media reports. “When spectators continued to cross the rope, NPD with additional officers calmly used bicycles for a short period to demarcate the course and keep both the runners and spectators safe.”

Newton Police Chief John Carmichael addressed the lawsuit in a Friday Facebook post, saying, “I stand by my decisions that day, and more importantly, I stand by our officers who acted appropriately, respectfully and as expected.”

The Boston Athletic Association, that organizes the marathon, told media that they were aware of the complaint but “have not yet had the opportunity to review it.”

“We are focused on creating a joyous environment for all,” the organization stated.

The lawsuit says Trailblaz Hers participated in 10 meetings with the Boston Athletics Association as well as meetings with city officials to address the incident, but neither police nor the association “enacted any meaningful reforms to prevent racial profiling and harassment from happening again.”

A total of 30,000 people are scheduled to run from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Boston in this year’s Boston Marathon. The race, which began in 1897, attracts thousands of spectators every year who cheer on athletes through their epic journey.