Over 2 dozen arrested at BART protest

September 9, 2011 12:33:56 AM PDT
Thursday evening, BART reopened the Powell Street Station after police shut it down when protesters swarmed the area in the sixth demonstration since BART police shot and killed a homeless man in July. This time, reporters and photographers were ordered to leave, but not all did.

The aim of demonstrators this time around was to jam up the entry gates for passengers to get onto the platform below. The demonstration lasted about 20 minutes before BART police decided it was too dangerous because of the close quarters, so they closed the whole station down for about two hours.

The main goal of this group called 'No Justice No BART' was to force BART into allowing passengers to ride the trains for free. The idea was to make the station so congested, that officials would have no choice, but to open the emergency gates. But after a few minutes of demonstrators circling the main floor of the Powell Street Station, with dozens of news crews in tow, officers decided to shut down the station.

Police in riot gear then circled the loudest of the group, then gave everyone else in the station three minutes to leave before they too would get arrested. Among those caught in the circle were news crews covering the demonstration and student journalists from San Francisco State.

"The next thing I knew like, basically we were completely surrounded. Several of us asked the officers several different occasions 'You know, what's going on? Why can't we leave? Can we please leave? We're members of the press,'" said S.F. State journalism student Brittney Barsotti.

"I just kind of stayed back with the other journalists and then as they were taking people out one by one, they came up to me and just arrested me," said SF State student Elizabeth Ireland.

For commuters, things came visibly frustrating.

"It's just not representative I think of how most San Franciscans and how most Bay Area residents feel, and it needs to stop," said San Francisco BART rider Bruce Halperin.

"We live in Walnut Creek and Concord respectively and it makes you less inclined to come into San Francisco if you're not going to be able to get home," said Walnut Creek BART Rider Jonathon Feit.

Six members of the working media were also detained.

"Some members of the media that had legitimate identification chose not to leave that circle and were processed into the arresting bin. There were approximately 26-30 that have been placed under arrest, they will be transported to 850 Bryant San Francisco," said BART police Commander Dan Hartwieg.

This demonstration was unusual because journalists were detained, but also because of the way police handled this situation. First, they circled the group then closed down the station, moved most of the media outside of the station, and made their arrests out of the media's view.

BART officials have always said they support peaceful protests so long as they are outside the fare gates. Protesters planned to challenge that idea on Thursday with a demonstration at the fare gates themselves.

No Justice, No Bart hopes this proves they are in it to hurt BART, not the riders.

"We're doing a service to the riders," said one protest organizer. "Today is Spare the Fare, much like Spare the Air...you can go through and ride for free courtesy of us and the BART authority."

Many BART riders don't consider this to be a huge favor.

"I pay every day," said rider Monique. "I'm fine with that. I just want to get home."

"I don't know why they want to give us a free ride," said Hoodean Vafaei. "If they want to give us a free ride -- if they want to inconvenience the administrators -- I don't think money is the way to do it. I think policy needs to change."

BART officials say policy changes happen in their boardroom, not on their platforms. They don't allow protests on the platform because they say it's too dangerous. If activists block the fare gates, BART says they will be subject to arrest as blocking the gates is against the law.

"People with No Justice, No Bart have gone to every board meeting," the organizer said. "We've done everything we're supposed to do."

So the group plans to keep protesting, and riders continue to complain.

"They've done it for the last two or three weeks," said rider Demyia Fisher. "Give me a break. Let me get to work on time."

The president of the BART Board of Directors said he would like to see fines for people who disrupt services. At the moment, demonstrators who interrupt service are only subject to an infraction.

About 25 people were arrested in Thursday's protest. However, demonstrations are not over yet, according to the group called 'Anonymous'. On their site, they have posted that they are planning another demonstration on Monday at Civic Center Station.

BART Vandalism

A group of about 10 to 20 vandals damaged turnstiles and spray painted graffiti at San Francisco's Glen Park Station. Some of them swung hammers and destroyed the clipper card readers at the station's entrance. Someone scrawled the name of Charles Hill on the ground. He's the man who was shot to death by BART police in July after throwing a knife at police.

No arrests have been made.

Load Comments