Students Arrested for Staging Protest at MassDOT Headquarters
Nearly two dozen students and young people calling for the implementation of an affordable “youth pass” on the MBTA were arrested and escorted from MassDOT’s headquarters Monday night, after they occupied the hallways and waiting room area outside the offices of the state’s top transportation officials and refused to leave until their demands were heard.
The “solidarity rally” and protest, a sit-in style revolt that required attendees to pass through security and make their way to the fourth floor of the building, was part of an ongoing push to get officials to begin working on a special pilot program that would offer students a discounted rate on their monthly transit pass.
The protest was organized by members of the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC), a mash-up of more than 20 grassroots organizations that bonded together in 2012 in response to the drastic fare increases handed down by the transit agency. Since then, YAC has staged protests on Beacon Hill and on the sidewalks in front of MassDOT’s building with regularity, and even launched online petitions and campaigns to organize their efforts and get their message out to the public. Individual groups from the area have been fighting for a youth pass for almost seven years, but collectively, the coalition’s voice has helped their movement grow.
Monday’s protest was the boiling point for the group, and a final call to action to get MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey to create a youth pass that would cost just $10 per month, and be available—without restrictions— for people between the ages of 12 and 21. While students can currently purchase a pass for $28, which is less than half the cost of a regular monthly LinkPass, organizers say that’s too much. Beginning July 1, that price will drop by $2, but that still hasn’t satisfied members of the coalition.
According to police, after the group of 30 protesters camped out in the hallways briefly discussed their concerns with transportation officials Monday, some refused to leave when the building was closing, leading to the arrests. A report from State Police said:
Shortly after 7 p.m., more than two hours after the offices closed for the day, troopers peacefully arrested 11 adult females and 10 adult males and charged them with trespassing. The arrests were made without incident. Most, if not all, of those arrested were young adults…the State Police acknowledge and respect the right of the public to peacefully assemble. Once the demonstrators had their opportunity to speak their concerns, and the offices closed for the day, their continued presence on the fourth floor constituted trespassing.
The protesters were brought to two different locations for booking and were later released on bail. Following the arrests, group members that were taken into custody posed for photos outside of the State Police barracks, holding up the citations issued during the sit-in.
In a statement Monday night, MassDOT officials said they were committed to continuing the discussion about making the T readily available to everyone, despite the fact that Davey previously stated there was no cost effective way to run a pilot program for the youth pass at this time. “MassDOT and the MBTA have expressed a willingness to continue to work with advocates to find ways to make public transportation more accessible and affordable,” officials said.