Rep. Ayanna Pressley said Friday all public transit should be fare-free, and her idea got huge applause at a gathering of diehard progressive activists.
Pressley, a member of the freshman squad, made the comments off the cuff as she was touting her criminal justice legislation aimed at radically decreasing the number of people incarcerated, abolishing private prisons and decriminalizing low-level offenses related to poverty.
“Like why are we locking kids up for evading fares?" Pressley said of turnstile jumpers. “They don't got it!
"Deal with the root problem. Public transit should be free anyway!”
The Howard University crowd burst into cheers. She paused for 10 seconds as the audience continued to erupt.
“Yeah,” Pressley said, emphasizing her free-fare point.
Her comments came at an event with her fellow squad members -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. -- where they spoke to “The Rising Majority” activists who are working on racial justice, immigration rights, climate change and economic equality issues.
The squad touted the power of the progressive movement that helped propel them into office in 2018 and how they intend to make real governmental changes. The hashtag for the event was #squadup and a banner on stage read: "Building an antiracist left for radical democracy.”
Although they are only freshmen, the four squad members have an outsized national profile and their ideas can take hold swiftly in the party, such as Ocasio-Cortez’s push for the Green New Deal.
With the progressive left already embracing free college tuition and free healthcare, free public transportation may be the next frontier.
Pressley's comments came just days after radical activists unleashed demonstrations Jan. 31 throughout New York City's transit system demanding free fares and no cops.
The violent demonstrations let to widespread damage to several subway stations and more than a dozen arrests, the New York Post reported.
Masked agitators demanded free transportation and no cops in the subways, saying "F--k your $2.75" and "F--k cops."
Pressley didn't address the protests. She's been keen on changing federal transportation policy to promote walking, biking and public transit over the use of cars. She co-founded in October a new Future of Transportation Caucus to work on the issues.
Pressley views public transportation as a social justice issue, arguing that transit deserts and unreliable service have perpetuated racial and economic disparities.
“Personally, I love the idea of a fare-free MBTA,” Pressley told Boston.com in October of her hometown transit system, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Pressley said, on the federal policy level, “Every idea needs to be on the table.”