Protesters take over BART board meeting

February 12, 2009 7:05:10 PM PST
A Bay Area Rapid Transit meeting turned to chaos Thursday, when protesters took over the agency's board of directors meeting.

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It has been 43 days since Oscar Grant was killed on a BART platform and the mood at the meet made it clear that the tension in Oakland is running as high as ever.

The crowd was outraged by the way BART has handled its investigation into the New Year's Day shooting of Grant. They unfurled a banner in the middle of the meeting room and presented their list of demands to board members.

Among their demands were the firing of BART police Chief Gary Gee, the firing and prosecution of Officer Tony Pirone, who is seen on cell phone video striking Grant before he was killed, a promise to make BART more transparent and force the agency's general manager, who earns $332,000 a year, to step down.

"Not asking for, at this point demanding, the resignation or termination of Dorothy Dugger," Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks said.

All the board members were on the hot seat. Outraged protesters called on them one by one to publicly say whether they would meet the demands; many would not answer, saying public meeting laws would not allow it.

Board member Joel Keller tried to challenge protesters, and that is when the meeting turned to chaos.

"I'd like to ask Councilwoman Brooks what she's done to ensure the Oakland Police Department has fully investigated," Keller said.

Some on the board tried to defend gee; they too were shot down.

"Until this incident, every single request has been for more BART police, for improved relations," BART board member Bob Franklin said.

Gee says he plans to stay, if he's allowed.

"As long as I'm police chief I will continue to serve with the level of integrity and commitment that I have throughout my career," Gee said.

Several board members have publically said they would like to see Gee leave, but four of the nine board members continue to strongly stand behind Dugger.

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