December 7, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Maskless passengers cough on San Francisco Uber driver

A San Francisco Uber driver is recovering after a passenger attacked him inside his car, grabbing his phone, tearing off his mask and shouting at him.

The driver picked up three women, one of whom wasn’t wearing a mask, about 12:45 p.m. Sunday, the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement. The driver, identified as Subhakar Khadka, didn’t get farther than two blocks before ending the ride because one of the women wouldn’t put on a mask, police said.

In a dashboard camera video widely circulated on social media, the woman coughs on the driver and curses the mask

“And I’ve got corona!” one of the other passengers says while pulling down her face covering.

The driver, wearing a white surgical mask, leans back against his seat and shakes his head.

The maskless woman then can be seen reaching forward and grabbing the driver’s phone. The two struggle briefly before he takes back the device. The woman then pulls his mask off and tosses it to the front of the car.

“You don’t touch my property!” the driver says in the video, unbuckling his seatbelt.

After the women exited the car, one of them pepper sprayed Khadka through an open window before fleeing, police said. Authorities are investigating the incident.

The passenger has been banned from the Uber app, a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“The behavior seen in the video is appalling,” Uber’s statement said. “Our policy is clear: no mask, no respect, no ride.”

Khadka, a Nepali immigrant, told KPIX-TV that he thought he was targeted because of his race.

The video provoked a wave of condemnation for the passenger’s actions and support for the driver.

Cyan Banister, an activist and entrepreneur who was an early investor in Uber, started a GoFundMe account for Khadka. The fund had reached more than $56,000 in pledges Thursday morning, nearly tripling its goal a day.

“Subhakar’s family isn’t with him right now and is overseas. He’s worked hard through the pandemic and this situation isn’t anything he’s ever experienced,” Banister posted. “As you can imagine, this was a horrible experience, but also a tremendously loving and supporting one, because we are all coming together to help.”

Lyft also barred the woman from its app, according to a tweet from the company.

“Although this incident did not involve the Lyft platform, the unacceptable treatment of the driver in this video compelled us to permanently remove the rider from the Lyft community,” the tweet said. “Driving in a pandemic is not easy. Please wear a mask, respect one another, and be a good person.”

In a video laced with profanities that was later posted online, the passenger defended her actions.

“All I did was take his mask off and cough a little bit, but I ain’t even have corona,” she says.

But then she expresses some remorse: “OK, I ain’t gonna lie, that was disrespectful [ …. ] It could have been avoided.”