Illustration by Meg Rogers

On the mid-evening of April 18, it rained while I was selling my newspapers. So, since my other colleague wasn’t in his usual sales location at the McPherson Square Metro exit, I decided to sell some of my papers there, sheltered from the rain. (And abiding by the law that says I need to be so many feet away from the actual exit).  

Then here comes this security guard out of the 1400 building that sits above the Metro. He starts walking around the area. I kept selling my papers and got to chit-chatting with the flower guy that usually sits there. 

Then, after doing several laps, the guard decides to tell me to move. I said “no,” because I had every right to be there. He said it was private property, which it is. But I looked at the sign attached to the brick wall that says “Private Property, No Loitering.”.  It doesn’t say, “No Soliciting” or “No Sales” or anything like that. So I stood my ground. My newspaper business is just as legitimate as the flowers the other vendor was selling. And certainly the Jehovah’s Witnesses that stand right up on the Metro escalators frequently are loitering more than any of us who are there to work. 

“If I call the police to remove you from this spot, then you will be barred from selling here ever,” he told me. 

This guy wasn’t interested in the flower vendor who was selling there too. He wasn’t interested in anyone who was literally loitering. It was just me who had to go. Was it because I happened to be a woman and he thought he could pick on me? Was it because he assumed I was homeless and that he could push me around?  

I said, again, “no.”  And he became very abusive and threatening. He was an outright bully. 

I was a bit frightened by this guy’s demeanor, but I was also so mad I was shaking. I’ve been doing this job for over eight years. It’s my livelihood. 

So I was thanking God there were people around and I kept asking my angels to give me the strength not to allow a 6’2” or bigger guy intimidate  me to leave. 

When the burly guard realized I was standing my ground, we left to call Metro Police like he said he would.  

They took there sweet time responding, probably pulling straws to see who was going to have to deal with this silly situation. But when the Metro Police finally arrived and the guard tried to accompany them to give me a talking to, the police officer told him that he they’d handle the situation and asked him to retreat back to his desk inside the building he should have been securing.  

I showed the officer my vendor badge and explained I had every right to sell my newspaper there. The officer walked around looking for a sign that said I couldn’t be there. When he didn’t find one, all the officer said was,  “Well it’s not raining anymore.” I made the same argument I had presented to the security guard, asking why I couldn’t sell my newspapers there  when the flower vendor hasn’t been harassed or been asked to move.  

The police officer said nothing while he thought about that. Finally, the officer said, “OK, you can sit next to the flower guy. And if it rains again, you can get back in your spot in front of the Metro escalator.”  

I felt so humiliated, emotionally assaulted, and harassed. When I asked the officer if I could do a report against the security guard, for trying to intimidate a woman selling a “homeless newspaper” for $2 a piece, the officer said “yes” and gave me his card with information about  where I could fill out the report.  

I haven’t done it yet. I had an accident that required four stitches and bed rest. But I plan to do it soon. This is my life, my income. But that’s just a day in the life. There’s never a dull moment on this job.