- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Eating isn't allowed on Metro trains and buses or in Metro facilities and that's all to the good. But it shouldn't be an offense worthy of being cuffed and stuffed.

That's the gist of a lawsuit filed on behalf of 13-year-old Ansche Hedgepeth, who was arrested and handcuffed two years ago by Metro Transit Police for holy infraction eating french fries at the Tenleytown-AU Metro station. D.C. law at the time provided that adults be issued citations for chowing down, but curiously gave police authority to notch things up considerably when it came to minors who violated the no-eating policy. Open that bag of Doritos, or dare to eat some fries, as Ansche did, and the full-boogie fleeing felon routine kicks in. And so the child just 11 years old at the time of the "offense" was placed in handcuffs and hauled off. Once in custody, the girl's backpack was also apparently searched although the legal basis for this search seems pretty flimsy.

Ansche's suit, filed in U.S. District Court, argues that her arrest and the subsequent search violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection of the laws, since police only applied the policy of arrest and incarceration to juveniles, while adults were treated with kid gloves.

The outrage over her arrest forced Metro to revise its police-state tactics when it comes to underage eaters, who now receive written warnings or letters to their parents. Handcuffing them is no longer standard procedure.

Three cheers for that, but Metro still needs to be taught a lesson, and Ansche deserves some recompense for the over-the-top way she was treated. While no one wants to see tossed-away burger wrappers lying on the ground, or inadvertently sit on the remains of someone else's snack, subjecting a child to the kind of treatment more appropriately directed at a violent adult criminal simply cannot be condoned.

As the case goes to trial, we hope that Ansche receives some long-overdue justice.

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