Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Violence On The Red Line

The other day, while riding the metro to campus, I inadvertently found myself in the middle of an altercation that was a bit violent. This was the kind of incident that, frankly, I have come to expect while traveling across China (see here and here for some of my worst moments in Chinese travel). But it was a real eye-opener to be part of this kind of encounter here in the United States.

I was on the metro at an unusual time of day, having worked at home in the morning. It was early afternoon when I jumped on the train at the end of the line at Glenmont. I noticed that there was only one other person on the car, a young-ish looking guy.

Shortly after the train headed out, the door between the car I was riding in and the one in front of it opened up. In walked three young females, probably late teens or so. I noticed that they walked down and sat with the guy at the back end of the car. I thought this was unusual, in that they did not look like the kind of people who would associate with one another, but, hey, who I am to pass those kinds of judgments...

Seconds later, over the din of the Chinese lesson in my headphones, I heard raised voices. Glancing down the car, I could see that all four of my traveling companions were standing up, with the three females being rather aggressive toward the guy. He was trying to get around them, get away from them, and the whole group kind of spilled down the middle of the car, until they were essentially adjacent to me, in that open area between the middle doors of the car.

Having taken off my headphones, I could hear that the females were accusing the male of bumping into one of them. He was heatedly denying this, and looking kind of frightened. I was just keeping my eye on the situation, not knowing what was really going on, and wanting to calibrate any response in an appropriate manner.

It was at that point that one of the females took a water bottle and threw its contents onto the guy. Another one of the females was brandishing what looked like a metal pointer. At one point, she smacked the guy in the face with it.

That was enough for me, so I got up and walked in between all of them, telling them to calm down and break it up. The females were yelling at me that I didn't know what was going on. The guy was denying their accusations and looking at me in a way that strongly suggested he was happy to have me involved.

I was considering pulling the alarm that was nearby, but we pulled into the next station before I could act. Imagine the surprise of the people waiting to get on when they found their passage blocked by this unruly group. One older woman bumped into one of the young females as she was boarding.

But the young females were not interested in this older woman and her quest to push by and get a seat. They were busy chasing the guy on and off the train. Eventually, he ended up off the train, with the females still on board.

The females then sat down a few rows away and carried on with loud voices. A few minutes later, they came walking by, and aggressively waved their metal pointer in the older woman's face. She looked really scared. The females then opened the door and moved into the car in front of us. (Moving between cars is, by the way, not allowed on the DC metro system.)

I did see the females one more time, about twenty minutes later, when they came walking back through our car, talking out loud about how that woman had bumped into one them. Thankfully, they got off the train, rather than try to cause any more physical trouble. I can say that the older woman had her head buried in her book the whole time, not daring to look up.

I think I'll stick to rush hour from now on...



At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

I remember reading about this incident a while back on the Metro. Sadly stories like these keep piling up and Metro PD does little to nothing about it.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

That's a good point, raising that incident, as it took place during rush hour, with plenty of people around.


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