There Needs to be Justice

While many Bostonians joined the rest of the country and braced for the arrival of President Donald Trump, a homeless man was beaten in a very public place.

Just before Christmas, in North Station—where both the Celtics and the Bruins play upstairs in TD Garden—Michael Hathaway was allegedly (according to video!) beaten by a security guard employed by Allied Security who was contracted by the Garden. At one point, according to witnesses, he was even beaten with his own cane—and all this happened during rush hour.

Apparently, all Mr. Hathaway (who is disabled by the way) did was sit on a bench and mind his own business. For his trouble, he was assaulted with his own cane!

The same guard has, allegedly, perpetrated other assaults at the station. Now, yours truly has never actually seen security guards at North Station assault anyone, but their demeanor suggests that most wouldn’t hesitate to do just that. The way they behave, you’d think they were actual cops, and more than once, I’ve noticed their hostility toward homeless people and others they feel inclined to mistreat. In fact, a couple of our vendors have had run ins with them.

Fortunately, TD Bank, realizing they had a possible public relations nightmare on their hands, reacted quickly and assured folks that safety for all was their first concern. They pledged to stop security guards from evicting homeless people from the station. (Shouldn’t that be the MBTA’s responsibly anyway?) They then terminated their contract with the security company, the guard in question was arrested and now everyone can go home happy, right?

Well, not really. Justice needs to be served.

You folks know where I’m going with this, right? You’ve heard me say it before: attacking homeless people should be considered a hate crime. It may be too late for this case, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen in the future.

Consider this: Would Mr. Hathaway have been attacked if there were legislation making it a hate crime? Would any homeless person be attacked if it were considered a hate crime? Yes, I know hate crime legislation is no guarantee that attacks won’t take place. But maybe, just maybe, it would give someone pause if they knew they were going to get an automatic five or more years for beating up someone less fortunate than them.

Let’s face it—the only reason people physically assault homeless people is because JQ public and the law don’t seem to care. How else can you explain a 200-plus-pound security guard attacking a disabled man with a cane during the middle of rush hour at one of the busiest commuter rail stations in town. Honestly, think about that!

One of the most common arguments against making such crimes into hate crimes comes from homeless advocates. They say that doing this will make homeless people into an actual class. What? Others say that most people who are homeless are already covered by hate crime legislation. Really?

What if the person were white? Like Mr. Hathaway or the gentleman assaulted by two college students a couple of years ago (who now suffers from brain damage while the students got probation) or the two people brutally murdered on the South Shore a few years ago.

There needs to be real justice for homeless people now.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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