A woman dubbed “Citi Bike Karen” for calling for help as she fought with a young Black man over a rental bike outside of a New York hospital alleges a viral video of the encounter — and discussion about it on social media — doesn’t capture the full story.
Justin Marino, a lawyer for Sarah Comrie, a physician’s assistant at Bellevue Hospital who is six months pregnant, said the bike in question belonged to his client originally.
Receipts from the 12 May encounter sent to The Independent appear to show a serial number matching the bike pictured in the video. The receipts capture Ms Comrie checking out the bike, then docking it a minute later, without paying a charge.
Mr Marino said this occurred as his client was being heckled by a group of young men to leave the bike.
“Can you tell me one pregnant woman that would ever try to commandeer and steal a bike from young men?” he told The Independent. “Do you think that would ever happen?”
He argued that public figures and the media have created a false narrative that Ms Comrie is a racist.
“This matter is shocking in that you literally have someone who, with her colleagues, saves lives on a daily basis, including throughout the pandemic, and within a matter of roughly a minute of a video, she is suddenly a racist villain,” he said. “That’s shameful.”
The video, posted 13 May, shows Ms Comrie yelling for help and appearing to start to cry, as she tells a group of young people they’re hurting her fetus.
“I’m not touching you. You’re putting your stomach on my hand,” one of the men in the video replies.
Others can be heard accusing Ms Comrie of crying fake tears and telling her it’s not her bike.
Ms Comrie can also be seen appearing to take one of the young men’s phones before handing it back.
Many online came to accuse Ms Comrie of being a “Karen,” a derogatory term for a white woman with an outsized sense of entitlement, often weaponised to harass people of colour.
The incident was quickly compared to a 2020 incident in which “Central Park Karen” Amy Cooper falsely told the police a Black birdwatcher tried to assault her when he confronted her about breaking park rules.
Some argued Ms Comrie was putting the young Black men in danger in the tussle over the bike by playing on racist tropes of Black men threatening white women, which have led in the past to retaliatory violence.
“This is unacceptable! A white woman was caught on camera attempting to STEAL a Citi Bike from a young Black man in NYC,” prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump wrote on Instagram. “She grossly tried to weaponize her tears to paint this man as a threat. This is EXACTLY the type of behavior that has endangered so many Black men in the past!”
Mr Marino said Ms Comrie has no “ill will” towards the young men in the video. Her focus, he said, is not a “vendetta” against them, but rather to make sure she keeps her job and is able to challenge those publicly accusing her of being a racist.
The physician’s assistant was put on leave from Bellevue earlier this week, pending an investigation.
“We are aware of the video involving a healthcare provider off duty and away from the hospital campus. The incident in the video is disturbing,” a spokesperson for NYC Health + Hospitals said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The provider is currently out on leave and will remain on leave pending a review,” the statement added.