SEPTA says it will no longer enforce a short-lived policy requiring riders to wear facial coverings after a widely shared video showing a man being dragged off a bus, allegedly for not wearing one, prompted confusion about whether masks were mandatory while riding public transit.
The video shows several Philadelphia police officers forcibly removing the man, who is later heard saying he was taken off the bus for not wearing a mask.
Philadelphia police responded to “calls of a disturbance” near 11th and Market Streets about 8:25 a.m. Friday after a passenger was repeatedly asked to leave the bus and refused. The passenger was not arrested or cited, according to police. The incident is under investigation.
“The police were responding to the fact that the person was asked to leave the bus and refused,” Managing Director Brian Abernathy said during the city’s news conference Friday. “I would expect my officers to continue to do that and support our SEPTA workers.”
SEPTA said it’s no longer enforcing a facial covering requirement that went into effect Thursday, and will not deny entry to passengers who are not wearing a mask or covering. When it announced its new “lifeline” schedule this week, SEPTA said it was asking all riders to wear masks or facial coverings for the safety of riders and employees.
“We didn’t do a good enough job notifying the public about this,” SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said Friday.
The video was quickly spread on social media, where users sought clarification.
The video below contains explicit language.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said at a news conference earlier this week that the city “would strongly recommend” riders wear masks when taking public transportation.
“Remember, wearing a mask is about really protecting the people around you, and you’re around people when you’re in a bus or in a subway,” he said.
The schedule changes prompted station closures, and SEPTA said transit police would “engage customers” to make sure riders are traveling for an essential reason.
“Our SEPTA bus drivers are front-line boots-on-the-ground heroes who go to work every day and .... feel the need for protection,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at Friday’s news conference.
Staff writer Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.