Listen to Isidore Asucquo:
“If you’d like to put the clipboard down you’re welcome to stay.” – Bowie Police Chief John Nesky
“We came [to Allen Pond Park on National Night Out] with all hope to achieve our goal, but we were so disappointed by [the] action of the police,” said Isidore Asucquo, one of the lead organizers of the Prince George’s County Taxi Workers Alliance.
The driver-led organization must submit 3,300 valid signatures from Prince George’s County registered voters by Aug. 28 in order to place the anti-driver legislation known as CB-3 on the ballot as a referendum in Nov. 2012. (For more information visit taxipetitions.com.)
In their effort to secure the needed signatures the Taxi Workers Alliance focused on National Night Out, Aug. 2, when thousands turn out for events held throughout the county. But in at least four instances throughout Prince George’s County drivers were prevented from collecting petition signatures.
Bowie Police Chief John Nesky confirmed that he thwarted drivers’ efforts at Allen Pond Park. “The forum in which they were trying to do it and the manner in which it was done was disruptive,” Nesky said in a phone conversation with TheFightBack last week.
The Allen Pond Park event was family oriented and centered around a theme, explained Nesky. “You must be presenting something that is safety or crime related… This wasn’t the forum for [collecting petition signatures],” he said. Nesky recalled telling a driver, “If you’d like to put the clipboard down you’re welcome to stay.”
Standing at the spot where the Aug. 2 incident occurred, Asucquo recounted the event: “I was approached by the police, likely the Bowie city police, who came to ask us what we are doing. I told him, ‘We are fighting for drivers’ independence from the companies,’ and I gave him one of the fliers. He told me that we cannot do it here [because] that is about politics. I said, ‘No, we are offering a service to the community [and] we want the community to know what is going on. That’s why we are here.’ And he said, ‘No, [you] can’t do it here. This is about safety.’… I obeyed him and I left.”
The incident at Bowie fits a county-wide pattern of behavior in which officials improperly prevented drivers from collecting signatures at public gatherings on National Night Out.
At Beckett Field in New Carrollton, drivers report being threatened with a $400 ticket by Officer Lyew if they didn’t leave the public event. According to the drivers, Lyew told them they had to pre-register in order to collect signatures. While Mayor Andrew Hanko and Chief David Rice were present and aware of the situation, neither intervened to prevent the drivers from being kicked out. (New Carrollton City Administrator Mike Downes denies that drivers were forced to leave. He says a driver was only “politely asked to stand at the main entrance and solicit his petition signatures as opposed to wandering around the premises annoying people.”)
At VFW Post 9619 in Morningside, Markos Gebrehiwot reported being told that he and three other drivers couldn’t collect signatures in the parking lot of the public event because it was on the grounds of a non-profit organization. And at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Temple Hills, Gebrehiwot said they were told they couldn’t attend because it was only for police and their families.
“[National Night Out] is an annual event… [and] this was a big loss for us,” said Henock Wogderse, one of the lead organizers of the Taxi Workers Alliance. Wogderse reports that drivers were also kicked out of events at Hyattsville and Riverdale. “We defintiely are consulting with our lawyers.”
- Prince George’s Has a Petition Problem: Drivers Thrown out of Public Events at Morningside and Temple Hills
- New Carrollton vs. the Constitution: Taxi Drivers Barred From Collecting Signatures at Public Event