Opinion: Cleveland bus driver deserves suspension

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber is a junior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Last week, a video was posted on YouTube that showed footage of a Cleveland bus driver, 59-year-old Artis Hughes, in a confrontation with a woman, 25-year-old Shidea Lane, that eventually led to Cleveland police being called to the scene and completing an incident report.

In the report, witnesses on the bus described Lane as being drunk and “loud and obnoxious.” After first being confronted by Hughes for not paying the bus fare, Lane claimed she forgot her book bag, then paid the fare and later became belligerent and proceeded to grab Hughes by the throat, hit him and spit in his face. This was all in the midst of Hughes and Lane exchanging offensive language and antagonizing one another.

Finally, Hughes claimed in a written statement, “I protected myself.” Likewise, one witness told the police Hughes “did what he had to do.”

What the police report does not include, however, were the details of exactly how Hughes defended himself. Since the footage from the altercation was posted Thurssday, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has suspended Hughes from duty and is currently investigating the issue, which is that Hughes literally uppercut Lane in the face.

I watched the video, and you can hear her teeth crack together and see her body fly back as Hughes hits her. After he punched her, Hughes proceeded to drag Lane off the bus and throw out her book bag.

Let’s make some things clear at this point. Was Lane in the wrong? Absolutely. She boarded a bus possibly intoxicated, caused a scene and then assaulted Hughes, putting both him and the other passengers at risk of getting into an accident.

The reason I suspect she was intoxicated is because she actually got back on the bus after being hit with such force and continued trying to retaliate against Hughes. No sober person does that after being hit that hard.

What I take issue with is the fact that Hughes used excessive force on a woman much smaller than he is and who was young enough to be his daughter. He took the bait by responding to her verbal antagonizing, then hit her with enough force to make her fly backwards.

He responded to a witness’s scolding for hitting a woman by saying, “I don’t care. You wanna be a man, I’ll treat you like a man.” That uttered phrase is his downfall, because it reveals Hughes retaliated not to remove a potential danger from the bus, but simply to prove a point: If you want to act violently (as only men can, apparently), you will be punched in the face, hard.

Responding to violence with violence is one thing, but when done for the wrong reasons, the act itself becomes wrong. Intention is everything. Hughes could have called the police first, or followed company protocol for dealing with a disruptive passenger, but instead took matters into his own hands and did something he probably regretted later, considering he refused to press charges against Lane.

Were Lane’s actions justification enough for Hughes to punch a paying customer in the face while on the job? The Greater Cleveland RTA doesn’t think so.

A word of advice to women: Acting too much like a man might just earn you a swift punch in the face.