On Friday, a video went viral on social media showing a man being forcibly removed from a Philadelphia bus by police officers.
The Philly Transit Riders Union Twitter account first posted a video in which a male employee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is seen demanding that several passengers “get off” a bus because they aren’t wearing face masks.
“If you do not have a mask, you cannot ride public transportation,” the SEPTA employee states. “Sir! Sir! You have to get off the bus.” The employee then exits the front of the bus and re-enters via the rear door.
“You’ve gotta get off the bus, man. I’m gonna have the cops take you off,” the employee says. “One or the other.”
Pointing to multiple individuals, the SEPTA employee repeats, “You have to get off … let’s go.”
A second video posted by the same Twitter account shows a man being removed from a bus by police officers. The two videos don’t appear to be from the same incident.
Two police officers wearing surgical masks struggle to drag a man not wearing a face-covering from the bus. One officer pulls the man’s leg, while the other grabs his arm. A struggle ensues, with the passenger yelling: “Get the f*** off my f***ing leg!”
After the man is successfully extricated from the bus, he and the officers engage in a brief tussle. Someone not in the frame yells out, “Thank you.”
“I want all y’all f***ing badge numbers, too!” the man says following the altercation.
do riders know that they might be pulled off a SEPTA bus by 10 cops for not having a mask? pic.twitter.com/NnHXJC02E8
— Philly Transit Riders Union (@phillyTRU) April 10, 2020
The videos have a combined view count of over 2.3 million as of publication.
The majority of Twitter users commenting below the videos excoriate the employee, the officers, and the ambiguity of the alleged SEPTA mask policy.
The man yelling at passengers not wearing a mask was NOT wearing a mask as he was yelling/spraying over the passengers sitting up front. ALSO, post signs at bus stops informing passengers that they MUST WEAR A MASK TO BOARD THE BUS.
— Ebonie (@EbonieOne) April 10, 2020
Same type of images we had 3 months ago from China. smfh
— iceman (@live2hover) April 10, 2020
Has not released any info saying riders MUST have a mask. There should at least be a release about this before cops start manhandling riders.
— Black Hokage (@reign_beau_) April 10, 2020
Near the bottom of the statement, mask-wearing is urged:
New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise wearing a simple cloth face covering, when out in public, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Following this guidance, we URGE all customers to wear a mask or other facial covering when traveling on SEPTA to protect customers and Operators.
An official SEPTA Twitter account has also posted variations of the following tweet multiple times asking that passengers wear masks:
#SEPTA’s main concern is the health and safety of our customers and employees. Consistent with new CDC guidelines, we urge customers to wear facial coverings in an effort to help prevent the spread of #COVID19: https://t.co/6MxWOf6rDX. #ISEPTAPHILLY #InItTogether pic.twitter.com/H8HfkXaglM
— ISEPTAPHILLY (@SEPTAPHILLY) April 10, 2020
In a reply to a tweet on Thursday, a SEPTA social media account said that individuals “may be denied service” for not wearing a mask:
Hi Lamar, people not wearing a mask or cloth covering may be denied service. Any face covering can be used, such as scarfs, bandanas, handkerchiefs or even ripped shirts. ^AS
— SEPTA_SOCIAL (@SEPTA_SOCIAL) April 9, 2020
Speaking with The Daily Wire, SEPTA spokesman John Golden clarified the confusion, noting that the website previously stated that passengers were indeed “required” to wear face coverings when riding SEPTA public transportation, but that the wording on the website was later altered to “urge” passengers to “wear a mask or other facial covering.”
SEPTA also released an official statement following the brouhaha with the non-masked passenger, which they sent to The Daily Wire:
SEPTA’s main concern is the health and safety of our customers and employees. To that end, SEPTA yesterday started requiring customers to wear facial coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That policy will no longer be enforced.
SEPTA urges customers to wear facial coverings in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, consistent with new CDC guidelines and strong recommendations from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. While SEPTA urges riders to cover their faces, those who refuse will not be barred entry to the system.
The statement concluded, speaking directly about the situation on Friday: “An incident today posted on social media regarding a passenger being removed from a bus is still under investigation. According to preliminary information, police were called in response to a disturbance involving a passenger.”