Last month, TriMet police stopped all riders exiting a train at the Old Town/Chinatown MAX stop and required the passengers to provide proof of payment. Police officers created a checkpoint to catch people who failed to pay TriMet’s rider fee. While TriMet police may catch some passengers without proof of fare, the majority of people stopped are stopped for no legitimate law enforcement reason.
We are getting involved in Ana’s case because we believe her rights were violated, as well as those of everyone else who is subject to random shakedowns from police under the guise of TriMet enforcement. Suspicionless fare checkpoints are similar to sobriety checkpoints that the Oregon Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in 1987. These dragnet searches violate the rights of all people who are stopped, whether or not they have proof of fare.
In most cases, failure to show proof of fare results in a citation and fine. But when Ana was stopped, she was harassed, arrested, and booked into jail. Because Trimet police thought Ana was copping an attitude when she asserted her right under Oregon law to not provide an ID when requested, they then accused her of lying to them when they couldn’t find the name she provided.
TriMet was probably embarrassed when they learned they arrested Ana, a well-known elected official, for using the name she uses in public, not the name on her birth certificate. But instead of apologizing and dropping the matter, TriMet issued a troubling statement that omits important information and mis-names Ana throughout.
When state officials engage in aggressive and ill-informed tactics, it increases the already disparate impact of over-policing and over-prosecution on communities of color. Members of Latinx communities are not the only group of people vulnerable to such abuse. It is also common for transgender or gender nonconforming people to have names that might not match the exact name on their state-issued identification. It is wrong that our justice system would label that as criminal behavior.
Ana’s name is Ana, and her name is well known. She is a community leader and has enjoyed a successful political career. A name that only a handful of people know is Rosa Valderrama. For good reason: this name, assigned to Ana at birth, is a painful reminder of a dark time in Ana’s early life. Her legal name has not yet been changed to match the name she uses throughout her life: Ana del Rocío. But that is not a crime. In fact, it happens all the time. My legal name is Mathew, but when asked, I usually say it is Mat. My family all know me by the name Mateus, the name I grew up with in Portugal, and was used on some state issued documents in Portugal. If I gave any of these names to a police officer, I would not be lying to that officer. Under TriMet and the DA’s theory of this case, I would be committing a crime if I provided any name other than Mathew. That can’t be right. But even more problematic would be that every trans person who used their name instead of the name they were assigned at birth would be committing a crime.
Unfortunately, prosecutors are doubling down on their charges against Ana. While the fare evasion charge was dropped, they are now charging her with giving false information to a peace officer in connection with a citation or warrant, a class A misdemeanor. And her case is being handled by a senior prosecutor who prosecutes aggravated murder cases. Why is so much of our state power and limited financial resources being used to prosecute Ana?
It is not too late for the prosecutors to use their discretion and resources wisely and drop the charges against Ana. By not doing so, they are sending a message to the community: If you are an outspoken person of color, you will face the full force of the government for any mistakes you make or are perceived to have made. And let’s not lose sight that this all started over a $2.50 fare.
TriMet fare enforcement seems to target stops in low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods where people go to get social services, such as the Old Town/Chinatown stop where Ana was surrounded by officers. The transit agency piles on fines and fees to the people who can least afford them. While Ana’s case has attracted significant media attention, the vast majority of these cases go unnoticed by the public. It is long past time that TriMet be held accountable for its actions. For years, the community has organized through OPAL, to change these aggressive tactics. The ACLU of Oregon and Ana hope that by adding our voices to this fight, we can lift up their important work.
Also read: "The Story of My Name" by Ana del Rocío.