Cab driver arrested for booing D.C. mayor wins $102 jury award

Thursday, December 2, 1999

Marion Barry...
Marion Barry

A cab driver arrested for booing then-D.C. mayor Marion Barry during an April 1997 speech won just over $100 from a jury last week.

Vernon Humbles had sued Barry and the city in August 1997 after police officers arrested him during Barry's speech at the Lincoln Theater.

Humbles and other cab drivers were picketing the mayor, who had made negative comments about the taxicab industry.

When Humbles heard Barry criticize his fellow picketers and their “old raggedy cabs,” he began booing and said, “You're lying, you're lying.”

Police officers allegedly dragged Humbles from his seat and arrested him for disorderly conduct. Prosecutors later dropped the charges.

On Nov. 24, after a three-day trial, a jury determined that the police had violated Humbles' civil rights, but awarded him only $102 in damages.

“We are very pleased that the jury determined the police violated Mr. Humbles' First Amendment rights, though we are disappointed with the size of the [award],” Arthur Spitzer, Humbles' attorney, said.

Spitzer, who serves as legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area, says that the case stands for the principle that “the police cannot arrest someone simply for yelling 'boo' instead of 'hooray' at a public rally. It is outrageous to arrest someone for critical speech.”

A call placed to the attorney for the Office of the Corporation Counsel, which represented the defendants, was not returned.