Victory! On June 5, 2017, Mary Holmes and the MBTA reached an agreement settling the civil rights lawsuit, requiring payments to Ms. Holmes and her attorneys, increased transparency for MBTA policies, and improvements in the citizen complaint system. The settlement also confirms policy changes that the MBTA made while the lawsuit was pending, which sought to enhance their systems and policies to monitor MBTA officer behavior and provide aggression management training. Learn more.
Roxbury resident Mary Holmes, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Howard Friedman, filed a civil rights lawsuit on August 19, 2015 against two MBTA police officers for police brutality and the violation of her constitutional right to free speech. Ms. Holmes was pepper-sprayed, beaten, and arrested by the officers because she spoke out to prevent MBTA police from abusing a person in her community.
In March 2014, Ms. Holmes was at the Dudley Square MBTA station in Roxbury when she saw Officer Jennifer Garvey scream at and shove another Black woman. The situation worried Ms. Holmes so she tried to calm the woman and asked Officer Garvey to stop being so aggressive. When these efforts failed, she called 9-1-1 for help. In response, Officer Garvey and her partner, Officer Alfred Trinh, pepper-sprayed Ms. Holmes in the face, beat her with a metal baton, and arrested her, handcuffing her hands behind her back while forcing her to the ground.
"The MBTA has signs everywhere telling people 'if you see something, say something.' This is exactly what Ms. Holmes did. She saw something wrong, and she spoke out. We need more people to follow Ms. Holmes' lead and do the same," said Jessie Rossman, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. "Unfortunately, the officers' reactions are part of a broader, troubling trend, in which police officers mistreat individuals exercising their constitutional rights. It has to stop."
"Given the national and local conversation on racial justice and police accountability, Ms. Holmes and the ACLU hope that this lawsuit gives voice to one woman's story of police violence and survival. We hope that this case will bring some justice and closure for Ms. Holmes, and that it will help bring fundamental changes to the way Roxbury and communities throughout Massachusetts are policed," said Carl Williams, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts.
On April 20, 2016, Mary Holmes added the MBTA as a defendant in the civil rights lawsuit she brought last August against two of the agency's transit officers who beat her and violated her constitutional rights in 2014. In light of information obtained in discovery, Ms. Holmes’ amended complaint alleges that the transit agency allowed a policy or custom to develop within its police department of failing to properly supervise, investigate and discipline its officers.
On November 9, 2016, the Federal District Court of Massachusetts heard arguments on several issues in Holmes, including whether the case against the MBTA should be dismissed because of sovereign immunity and whether the complaint contains sufficient facts to establish a case of Monell Liability against the MBTA. In January, the Court rejected the MBTA's motion to dismiss the case, allowing Holmes' civil rights lawsuit to move forward.
The following videos provided by the MBTA show Mary Holmes' March 2014 encounter with MBTA officers Jennifer Garvey and Alfred Trinh. They contain graphic content.