A small group of people sleeping in a Philadelphia subway said they wouldn’t be forced out into the deadly freezing temperatures, so police attacked them and called it a mini-riot.
Police injured several people and at least two were arrested on the below-freezing night in January. The incident has increased fear among homeless people in Philadelphia.
Ten cops with pepper spray and batons ultimately attacked the small group of men and women. Thomas Nestel, police chief of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, claims the transit police refrained from using force until the people wouldn’t leave. When the men and women refused to leave, officers attacked to force the desperate unsheltered people out into the freezing temperatures.
Shortly after midnight on Jan. 15, officers began to force people from shelter. The police chief Nestel said, “They were dealing with folks who wanted to stay in the station and were told that they couldn’t.”
Witnesses say one of the people involved was attacked when she argued with cops because of the potentially deadly temperatures outside. When another woman spoke up and told people not to follow the cops orders, she suffered a black eye and bruises to her body. Officers experienced no serious injuries. Several witnesses would not be identified for fear of reprisals from authorities.
Two people were charged in the confrontation. Both were accused of assaulting an officer and one is accused of inciting a riot. The department declined to share video of the incident, saying it was part of an investigation.
The police chief stood by the conduct of the officers, saying that “no force is ever pretty,” and “we’re not running a Gestapo force that is beating people and throwing them out because they’re poor.”