Black Running Group Sues Boston Marathon Over Alleged Racial Discrimination

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A Black-led running group claims they were racially discriminated against and harassed by Newton, Massachusetts police at last year's Boston Marathon.

According to CNN, TrailblazHers, a predominately Black, all-women running group, filed a lawsuit last week against the organizers of the Boston Marathon along with the city of Newton and its police chief over alleged racial discrimination that took place in a cheer zone during the 2023 race.

TrailblazHers organized a cheer zone at Mile 21, inviting other running groups led by people of color to join in support of Boston Marathon runners. For the past four years, the group has gathered at Mile 21 as a "key place where runners of color are acknowledged and celebrated,” the lawsuit states.

However, during the 2023 race, Newton police “singled out spectators from TrailblazHers Run Co. (“TrailblazHers”) and other running crews that serve primarily people of color, racially profiling, targeting, and harassing them,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that non-White spectators at Mile 21 were held back by police as they were trying to celebrate and interact with runners while white spectators didn't face the same treatment.

Police formed “a human barricade to physically separate the running crews of colors from the event,” the suit states, citing photos of the barricade created by officers and their bikes. “Similarly-situated white spectators received no such treatment.”

According to the lawsuit, police on motorcycles also “stationed themselves on the street behind the Plaintiffs’ cheer zone, effectively surrounding and penning in the people in the cheer zone of color."

“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.

Newton police released a statement last year addressing the incident.

“After being notified by the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) three times about spectators traversing the rope barrier and impeding runners, the Newton Police Department responded respectfully and repeatedly requesting that spectators stay behind the rope and not encroach onto the course,” police said. “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.”

On Friday (April 12), Newton Police Chief John Carmichael spoke out about the allegations, defending the department's actions.

“I stand by my decisions that day, and more importantly, I stand by our officers who acted appropriately, respectfully, and as expected,” Carmichael said in a statement.

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial to determine “compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages.”

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