City Desk

Breastfeeding Mom Says She Was Told Not To Nurse In D.C. Government Building

A nursing mother says she was accused of "indecent exposure" as she fed her 4-month-old son while sitting on the floor of a hallway of the Henry J. Daly building, waiting for a ticket adjudication.

Simone Manigo-Truell, a lawyer at a local firm, wrote to say she was first told by a security guard named Erica Fowler to stop sitting on the floor, a request she complied with. She says Fowler then told her to stop nursing, and said, "Well, this is a government building, and you can’t breastfeed in a public corridor of a government building!”

Which would be incorrect, since the 2007 amendment to the D.C. Human Rights Act expressly gives mothers the right to nurse their children anywhere public or private they can be together. Manigo-Truell writes, "It is shocking that the District has failed to educate its employees and sub-contractors on the current status of District laws on key issues which they may have to deal with." (Manigo-Truell also posted about the incident on D.C. Urban Moms last week, in a thread that now covers 29 pages.)

But General Services—the division that hires the contractors who hire the security officers in the building—insists its contractors have familiarized officers with the law. Moreover they contradict Manigo-Truell's account, saying that she was offered alternative spaces to nurse. "At no time was the mother prohibited from nursing," says spokesman Darrell Pressley. Rather, he says Manigo-Truell was asked to move from the floor of the hallway and sit at a telephone booth, and also offered a private room.

For her part, Manigo-Truell says that account is "completely false." She adds:

[It] demonstrates that they still do not appreciate the fact that the law permitted me to nurse in that corridor so there was no need to offer me a bench in a phone booth (do phone booths even still exist)? Also, if they offered me a room, wouldn't I have just taken it? Wouldn't I have preferred to nurse in a room rather than a corridor leaning up against a wall?

And another question: If the General Services account is true, why would they offer an alternate space? The law says a mother can nurse a hungry child wherever she'd like. So why try to move her?

Photo by Vermin Inc via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

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  • http://DCUM Chyna Black

    According to Simones post on http://www.DCUM.com, the officer told her twice to get up and she did not get up when asked to. Simone is leaving out important information that she herself has written because she knows it will hurt her case. Everyone, needs to look at her post and get the facts straight regarding this incident.

  • AC

    I don't think this is as clear-cut as this article makes it out to be. In her original email to the Petworth Parents Yahoo group on December 8 (which is more than a week after the incident, still giving her plenty of time to embellish her story), she wrote the following:

    "I was sitting on the floor in the corridor of the Municipal Building at 301 C Street, N.W., awaiting a traffic adjudication hearing. Because I did not want to nurse my infant son in the busy waiting room at number 1157 (where the activity might distract him) I decided to nurse him in the much calmer corridor outside room 1143. There were no chairs in the corridor, so I sat on the floor next to my stroller and started nursing my son. There were no signs directing me to the building's "Breastfeeding Room."
    At that moment, Special Officer Erica Fowler, a security guard who was monitoring the metal detectors at the building's entrance, yelled at me that I was not allowed to sit on the floor in the corridor and that I needed to get up. I responded, "Okay," and continued to nurse my son from my position on the floor. Officer Fowler then again yelled that I needed to get up because I was not allowed to sit on the floor. I informed her that I was nursing my son, he was on my breast, and that I would comply with her demand as soon my son finished nursing. She responded that I needed to immediately take him off my breast and stand up because I was not allowed to sit on the floor. I promptly removed my son, buttoned up my shirt, and slowly stood up, still cradling my son in my arms.

    At that point, I leaned against the wall and, bracing my right leg on the stroller for support, proceeded to unbutton my shirt and again nurse my son. "

    She's got the right to nurse in public; no one disputes that. But she didn't have the right to sit in that corridor, therefore she had no right to nurse her son there. And her belligerence to the security guard certainly didn't help get matters off to the right start.

  • LOL You lose

    Chyna Black December 13th, 2011

    "According to Simones post on http://www.DCUM.com, the officer told her twice to get up and she did not get up when asked to."

    Security guard. Not a police officer. So your argument is stupid from the get-go and you lose.

  • sammy

    No one wants to have to be around some self-centered passive aggressive chick with her tit hanging out suckling some kid ... in a busy corridor of a govt. bldg., on the floor, no less. Just as no one wants to see some dude picking his nose or adjusting his junk all the time. Take it to a private room or just a friggin' private bench. Proving once again, common sense is not so common.

  • noodlez

    I'M WITH THE NURSING MOM ON THIS ONE.

    AS A PERSON OF AUTHORITY ONE SHOULD NEVER WANT TO ESCALATE A SITUATION ESPECIALLY ONE INVOLVING A MOTHER AND AN INFANT CHILD.

    THE MERE FACT THAT SHE YELLED AT THE WOMAN FROM AFAR TO STOP SITTING ON THE FLOOR INSTEAD OF GOING TO THE WOMAN SITTING ON THE FLOOR AND ASKING HER TO FIND ANOTHER PLACE TO SIT WOULD HAVE REVEALED THAT THE MOM WASNT JUST SITTING THERE BECAUSE THERE WASN’T A BETTER PLACE TO SIT BUT THAT SHE HAD PURPOSE.

    ALSO THE IGNORANCE OF FOLK REGARDING BREAST FEEDING ESPECIALLY THE UNDER 35 URBAN BLACK WOMAN DEMOGRAPHIC WILL CONTINUE TO PLAGUE SOCIETY AS A WHOLE ON SO MANY LEVELS. YOU WOULD THINK ERICA FOWLER BEING A WOMAN (EVEN IF SHE MIGHT BE A LESBIAN) WOULD LEND A MOTHER SOME ASSISTANCE AND NOT BE CONFRONTATIONAL.

    YO ERICA INDECENT EXPOSURE IN A GOV’T BLDG INVOLVING TITTIES, AREOLAS, NIPPLES AND CLEVAGE IS SOME BULLSHIT! THE NUMBER OF TOP HEAVY WOMAN THAT PUT THEIR ASSETS ON DISPLAY THROUGH THEIR STYLE OF DRESS/CLOTHING ON THE REGULAR THAT VISIT AND WORK IN SAID ESTABLISHMENT FAR OUTNUMBER THE LADIES AND MOMS WHO CARRY THEMSELVES IN A DECENT FASHION.

  • Anya

    The law allows her to nurse in public wherever she and her child are otherwise legally allowed to be. Loitering in public corridors in govt. buildings is prohibited, thus she DID NOT have the legal right to sit on the floor there and do ANYTHING, not even nurse. This would explain why they offered her a telephone booth or a private room. They weren't trying to cover up her breastfeeding, they were trying to keep her from illegally loitering in the corridor.

    http://os.dc.gov/os/lib/os/info/odai/title_1/1dcmr14.pdf

    Specifically:

    "1415.1No person shall engage in conduct which creates a disturbance including the following:
    (a)Loitering;
    (b)Loud and unusual noise;
    (c)Obstruction of the use of entrances, foyers, lobbies, corridors, elevators, stairways, or parking lots;"

    I breastfed for over a year, many times in public, and wholeheartedly support the right of women to do so. But Simone was clearly in the wrong here. (Yes, obviously the guards should also not have misstated the law and should be educated about breastfeeding, but they were in the right in trying to get her to move.)

  • DC Res

    Anya is correct, her rights were not violated, and the security guards were correct in telling her she could not stay there or breastfeed there. It would have been wrong if they had actually told her it was indecent exposure, but that is her claim and the security guards deny having said that.

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  • anon

    So by this womans own account, she had to get an associate at her firm to look up the breastfeeding laws in the District.

    So let me ask...if a breast feeding lawyer doesn't know what the laws are regarding breastfeeding, does she really expect some 12 dollar an hour rent a cop to know?

    This lady is fully self obsessed. "I didn't see a breastfeeding room sign". Well, golly jee... Could you have not gone to the restroom?

    She takes her infant to a public place with no plans, no blanket or covering (every woman I've ever seen breastfeed in public atleast had a blanket to cover herself) and then she is tramautized? Really? She sincerely needs to get over herself.

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