Civil Liberties

Rocking the Bus

Mandatory ID checks.

|

The first time she was asked to show identification while riding the bus to work, Deborah Davis was so startled that she complied without thinking. But the more she thought about it, the less sense it made.

That's how Davis, a middle-aged Colorado woman with four grown children and five grandchildren, ended up getting dragged off the bus on September 26 by federal security officers, who handcuffed her, took her to their station, and cited her for two misdemeanors. In December federal prosecutors decided to drop the charges, which carried a penalty of up to 60 days in jail, because of a legal technicality. But the ID policy that Davis defied remained in place, and her supporters promised to continue challenging it.

The public bus that Davis took to her office job in Lakewood, Colorado, happens to cross the Denver Federal Center, a 90-building complex occupied by agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, the General Services Administration, and the Bureau of Land Management. Although the area is advertised as "open to the public," guards board buses as they enter the complex and demand IDs from passengers–even if, like Davis, they're not getting off there. According to Davis, the guards barely glance at the IDs, let alone write down names.

"It's just an obedience test," says Gail Johnson, a lawyer recruited to represent Davis by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. "It does nothing for security." Johnson argues that the ID requirement violates passengers' First Amendment right to freedom of association, their Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, and their Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty without due process.

"Enough is enough," says Davis. "Our rights are being taken away a little piece at a time, and people are letting it happen."??

Advertisement