MIAMI - A religious group says they are stepping up to defend an 82-year-old woman who was forcibly removed by a security guard from a Metrorail train because she was singing during the ride.
The Christian Family Coalition said they believe the woman's constitutional rights of free speech were violated.
"We believe that this lady's basic human rights were violated in an atrocious manner," said Anthony Verdugo of the Christian Family Coalition. "This is an injustice that must be corrected, and it must be corrected now."
Elected officials in Miami-Dade County have also responded to the video, which shows the security guard forcibly removing Emma Anderson, 82, from the Metrorail train.
Cell phone video taken Feb. 20 showed Anderson sitting in a seat on the train and singing a spiritual hymn when a private security guard approaches. He tells her she was being disruptive.
"I was beating my little beads with the bottle and I was singing a song, and he came up to me and said, 'Ma'am, you're making too much noise,'" Anderson said. "He said, 'You got to get off this train.'"
The cell phone video showed the security guard grab Anderson's bag. She clings tightly onto it and is pulled from her seat.
"He snatched so hard until I fell. I fell backwards," said Anderson.
LISTEN: Emma Anderson sings
"I think that that is something we should not tolerate," said Miami-Dade County commissioner Audrey Edmonson. "From what I witnessed on the video, I was appalled. Appalled that we as a county could hire a security company who has a lack of sensitivity."
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement, saying: "We are sorry that this incident occurred and apologize to Mrs. Anderson. The situation should have been handled with more care and common sense. We have made it clear to all County employees and contractors that our patrons must be treated with dignity and respect. We are in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure special consideration is taken when dealing with the elderly and people with special needs."
Edmonson added she sent a letter to Gimenez requesting an investigation. She said the guard in the video will be barred from any county-owned facility.
"I can't say fired because this is a private company, but I do know we do need to look into the history of this company with the county as well as this gentleman," she said.
The contract with the security company is up for review at the end of the year.
Karla Damian, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade Transit, released a statement about the incident.
"Miami-Dade Transit has a responsibility to all its passengers to provide a safe and comfortable travel experience. The elderly passenger, Ms. Anderson, who was escorted from a Metrorail train, was initially asked by a security guard to refrain from singing loudly and playing an instrument while on the train.
She refused to comply. County rules associated with transit use prohibit anyone from singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument unless a commercial permit is issued by MDT. Further, Ms. Anderson's singing was causing a disturbance to other passengers and impeding important train announcements from being heard.
We regret that Ms. Anderson had to eventually be escorted out, but regardless of age, all passengers need to abide by the rules associated with using transit."
Anderson's family has since filed a police report and hired an attorney.
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