Black Running Group Files Federal Lawsuit Accusing Boston Marathon Organizers And Police Of Racial Discrimination

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A Black women led running group has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Boston Marathon organizers and Newton police of racial discrimination. The TrailblazHers filed their suit just days ahead of the 2024 marathon, alleging that their rights to equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment were violated during last year’s race.

Lawyers for Civil Rights(LCR) filed the suit on behalf of TrailblazHers Run Co. “against the Newton Police Department (NPD) and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), asking the court to enjoin racial profiling and harassment against the running group and its members.” In addition, the group “seeks redress for emotional distress and trauma caused by last year’s racial profiling incident.”

According to the complaint, which was filed in a federal court in Massachusetts, during the 2023 race, the NPD “singled out spectators from TrailblazHers Run Co. (“TrailblazHers”) and other running crews that serve primarily people of color, racially profiling, targeting, and harassing them.”

This allegedly occurred near Mile 21, where the group organized a designated “cheer zone” and had extended the invitation for “other running groups led by people of color to join,” per the complaint. More than 100 “mostly people of color” spectators were gathered together.

Moreover, the complaint alleges that this has been a tradition for the last four years, arguing that this specific mile marker is of special importance. “‘It stands as a key place where runners of color are acknowledged and celebrated,’ helping create a ‘powerful and affirming experience for runners of color.’”

During the race, Newton police officers allegedly “formed a human barricade separating them [the spectators] from the course.”

According to a statement from LCR, “[a]dditional NPD officers on motorcycles stationed themselves behind the spectators, effectively penning in the people in the cheer zone of color. The Black running crew and its members were surrounded by police with officers refusing multiple attempts at de-escalation. White spectators in nearby locations who engaged in the same celebratory activities – considered standard for Marathon Day – received no BAA or police response.”

Moreover, the lawsuit included photos to back up the plaintiff’s claims. One picture showed “balloons in the middle of the course in Wellesley. ‘No one threatened or intimidated the white spectators to remove the obstructing balloon arch,’” the lawsuit indicated. “Another photo shows a spectator feeding a runner a doughnut while he’s running. ‘…no BAA officials or police officers intervened.’”

Executive Director of LCR Iván Espinoza Madrigal stated, “Overpolicing and hate crimes help explain why running remains a heavily white sport. 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.”

“Last April, the Boston Athletic Association issued an apology on the matter, saying that they should have done more to create a more welcoming and supportive environment along the 26.2 mile race route,” Boston25 News reports.

However, the NPD is not backing down from their actions. “Upon receiving the complaint, I unequivocally contest the document’s substance as presented,” said John Carmichael, Newton Police Chief. “I stand by my decisions that day, and more importantly, I stand by our officers who acted appropriately, respectfully, and as expected.”

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