On October the 11th, 2012, Artis Hughes, a middle-aged black man, allowed a 25-year-old black woman called Shidea N. Lane to board his bus.
On asking for her fare, she refused to pay, claiming she had left her backpack at home, and complained to mr. Hughes repeatedly about not being allowed to board without paying. Eventually, she did pay (having lied about having no money), calling mr. Hughes a "bitch" in the process. She and mr. Hughes engaged in a verbal argument as he drove the bus onward, and after threatening to spit on mr. Hughes repeatedly, ms. Lane did spit on him, then grabbed at his head and punched him; several phone cameras held by passagers documented the physical assault.
In response to this, mr. Hughes stopped the bus, stood up, punched her in the face, threw her off the bus and proceeded to throw out her belongings. As he did so, she returned to the bus, and he attempted to throw her out again, only to cause her to fall on the floor. A small group of passagers came between them, and after a few moments, ms. Lane stood up and attempted to strike mr. Hughes, prompting him to strike back. The fight continued for several seconds and was broken up by the intervening passagers. Afterwards, ms. Lane threatened mr. Hughes with a beating from, presumably, her boyfriend (her n**ger, in her own words), as well as with jail time.
The Regional Transit Authority's response was to suspend mr. Hughes pending an investigation. We, the undersigned, acknowledge that public opinion will have an infuluence on the investigation's outcome, and so we state our belief that following this investigation, mr. Hughes should be reinstated and receive the RTA's support in the wake of the incident.
As a bus driver, mr. Hughes was lied to, insulted, threatened and eventually attacked by one of the passagers. He was clearly justified in striking back. Were he to suffer any negative consequences to his employment as a result of defending himself and striking back, this would set a disasterous precedent: he and other employees would legitimately believe that their workplace expects them to put up with harrassment, and that they will lose their jobs if they choose to stand up for themselves. Rather than dismissing mr. Hughes, the RTA should begin to enforce a zero tolerance policy towards the abuse of staff by passagers, one that could enable people like mr. Hughes to do their jobs with dignity and security.
As well as being a bus driver, mr. Hughes is a man, and ms. Lane is a woman. We continue to live in a world in which some people see fit to scold men for fighting back against the women who abuse them. After mr. Hughes struck ms. Lane, a woman could be heard protesting about it, saying "That's a [censored] female". Mr. Hughes responded by saying: "I don't care. You want to be man? I'm going to treat you like a man!" This is a healthy attitude: if men refuse to strike back, fearing that the law will favour their female abusers over them, we create an environment in which women can harrass and victimize men with impunity. Instead, a man's decision to fight back against a woman should be respected.
It is for these reasons - the fact that the bus driver was the real victim and was justified in hitting back; that he and other bus drivers should not fear the legal consequences of responding to attacks by passagers; and that men in general should not fear the legal consequences of responding to attacks by women - that we urge you to reinstate mr. Artis Hughes following the investigation on the incident, and hope that future policies will safeguard him and other bus drivers from legal assault whenever they respond to a passager's physical assault.
Two videos of this incident are worth reviewing if you have not done so already:
(close-up in which conversation is audible)
(full video that includes the prolonged argument leading to the assault; the video clearly shows that ms. Lane struck first)
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