Philadelphia police drag man without mask off public bus, prompting policy change

SEPTA said it will now allow riders without masks on public buses.

April 11, 2020, 5:07 PM

The transit authority in Philadelphia is now changing its policy for commuters wearing masks after social video emerged of a rider being dragged off a public bus by police on Friday.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, issued a policy earlier this week saying all riders must wear facial coverings as of Thursday in order to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. In the video, the man, who is not wearing a mask or face covering, is seen being physically carried off the bus by at least four Philadelphia Police Department officers, with half a dozen or more officers outside the bus looking on.

The policy, issued April 7, read, "SEPTA is now asking all riders to wear masks or other facial coverings, consistent with new CDC guidelines, to protect both riders and operators."

The man in the video has not been identified. He is seen repeatedly cursing at the officers as he is dragged off the public bus.

He was not arrested or cited for the incident.

SEPTA is changing its rules for commuters wearing face coverings after police physically dragged a rider off a public bus for not wearing a mask on April 10, 2020.
Dupree Myers via Storyful

"A Septa bus driver requested that an unruly passenger leave the bus several times, and the passenger repeatedly refused," the Philadelphia Police Department said in a statement. "PPD Officers arrived on location, and after being made aware of the driver's request, also ordered the male to leave the bus several times. The male again refused, at which point he was physically removed by the officers."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the guidelines last week.

The incident, which sparked outrage online, led SEPTA to issue a statement on Saturday saying it will no longer make face coverings mandatory on public transit, though it still asks commuters to comply with the recommendation.

"SEPTA’s main concern is the health and safety of our customers and employees," it said in a statement. "To that end, on April 9 SEPTA started requiring customers to wear facial coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That policy will no longer be enforced."

SEPTA added, "While SEPTA urges riders to cover their faces, those who refuse will not be barred entry to the system."

The Philadelphia Police Department and SEPTA said the incident remains under investigation.

ABC News' Jason Volack and Lena Camilletti contributed to this report.

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