Posted on April 19, 2024

Black-Led Women’s Group Sues Boston Marathon Organizers Claiming They Were Discriminated Against

James Cirrone, Daily Mail, April 15, 2024

An all-female running crew has sued police and Boston Marathon organizers over alleged racial discrimination last year when officers blocked the group’s path to cheer on sprinters.

The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday days ahead of the 2024 race, centers around a 2023 video that shows Newton police officers setting up a barricade at Mile 21, where the TrailblazHers have cheered on their fellow runners for the past four years.

The group claims the human barricade of police blocked over 100 people, mostly people of color, from viewing the race.

Officers on motorcycles were also present and ‘stationed themselves on the street behind the Plaintiffs’ cheer zone, effectively surrounding and penning in the people in the cheer zone of color,’ the complaint says.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that white spectators did not receive the same treatment at all. The plaintiffs claimed white attendees of the race were free to interact and celebrate the runners.

‘For individual members, police profiling and scrutiny turns what should be a day of joy and festivity into one of pain, humiliation and trauma,’ the lawsuit states.

The TrailblazHers Run Co. is a running group that seeks to motivate their members, many of color, no matter their fitness level while providing a welcoming, inclusive community for women of color. The TrailblazHers, despite the lawsuit, have been training for this year’s marathon.

In the video of the 2023 Marathon captured by a vlogger, Newton police are seen barricading the people in the Mile 21 area from getting near the street where the runners’ route went.

A separate video posted by the TrailblazHers shows members of the running crew dancing and celebrating as the race unfolds. Police weren’t present at that time, and some spectators were on the road.

Newton police disputed the group’s description of last year’s interatction. In a statement shortly after the incident last year, the department said that people in that cheer zone were ‘traversing the rope barrier and impeding runners.’

‘When spectators continued to cross the rope, NPD with additional officers calmly used bicycles for a short period to demarcate the course and keep both the runners and spectators safe,’ the statement said.

Newton Police Chief John Carmichael, who was also sued by the TrailblazHers, responded to the lawsuit in a Friday Facebook post.

‘I stand by my decisions that day, and more importantly, I stand by our officers who acted appropriately, respectfully and as expected,’ he wrote.

The Newton Police Department did not respond to a request for comment in time for this report.

According to the lawsuit, the TrailblazHers have met with the Boston Athletics Association, which organizes the Marathon, and city officials on ten separate occasions to discuss the incident. These meetings haven’t led to ‘any meaningful reforms to prevent racial profiling and harassment from happening again.’

The TrailblazHers are represented by the Lawyers for Civil Rights, which released a statement on Friday to further explain the lawsuit. The statement referenced Ahmaud Arbery, a Black runner who was killed in Georgia in 2020.

The three men who were involved in the killing chased Arbery down in their trucks, and one of them, Travis McMichael, shot the 25-year-old dead. All three defendants were convicted of various charges in February 2022. Travis McMichael and his father George McMichael were sentenced to life in prison, while William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, who recorded the murder, was sentenced to 35 years.

‘Overpolicing and hate crimes help explain why running remains a heavily white sport,’ Iván Espinoza Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said.

‘Ahmaud Arbery, an avid Black jogger, was killed while running through a residential neighborhood in Georgia. What happened at Mile 21 in Newton is scary, triggering, and traumatic for people who are repeatedly victimized just for running while Black.’

Liz Rock, the founder of TrailblazHers, said in the statement: ‘Over the years we have worked tirelessly to make running more accessible to BIPOC runners in Boston, and we expected the [Boston Athletics Association] to be a partner in this endeavor. However, their actions have not lived up to their words.’

As part of the complaint, the TrailblazHers are asking for a jury trial and is seeking ‘compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages.’ The did not specify the amount of money they are seeking.