BART protesters strike Civic Center for the third time, promise to return

Nearly 50 protesters swarmed around Civic Center BART station and proceeded to walk up Market St. to Powell, Montgomery, and Embarcadero stations between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday, marking the third organized BART protest in what may be a weekly occurrence until the demands of the protest group Anonymous are met.

Mike Cheng

San Francisco police officers arrest a protester at Embarcadero BART station on Aug. 29, 2011. Photo by Mike Cheng.

Protesters were marching for various reasons including opposition to the killing of Oscar Grant and Charles Hill, the shutdown of cell phone service by police during an August 11 protest, and personal conflicts with police.

In order to deter the perception that protesters have interrupted commuters by causing the station to shut down, which happened during previous protests, one of the speakers with a bullhorn, Christian Ream, emphasized that the shutdowns were the police’s decision after an officer said he would not close the station if protesters did not go downstairs at Powell station.

“He admitted that if you stay here we’ll keep the station open,” Ream said over a bullhorn at around 5:40 p.m. “They are deciding to close the station. We are not. It’s really important to understand that.”

At 6:17 p.m. the crowd entered Embarcadero BART where some of the police and members of the crowd started pushing each other and the screams of “Back up! Back up!” by police while the protesters’ angry expletives and shouts of “You can’t shoot us all!” echoed throughout the station.

Although the crowd of protesters allowed BART passengers to pass through the entryway into the boarding area, Ream and another protester were arrested and charged with interrupting BART operations at approximately 6:36 p.m.

“I wasn’t even in the pay area,” Ream said. “I’m in the protest because I’m against the BART police. I’m sick and tired of them harassing people of color. They make it illegal to be young, they make it illegal to be homeless, they make it illegal to be a person of color. It’s unacceptable. They go after the homeless instead of the people who maintain the system.”

Ream was not the only person there to protest the killing of Oscar Grant. Melisa Keay, 24, followed the trial of Officer Johannes Mehserle, the cop who was responsible for Grant’s death because he allegedly used his gun on accident instead of his taser.

Demonstrators march on Market street near Montgomery station during a protest against BART on Aug. 29, 2011. Protesters demand the disbanding of the BART police among other things. Photo by Erik Verduzco

“BART police have a taser on one side and a gun on the other,” Keay said. “(Mehserle) knew what he was doing.”

Two entirely nude men were also there to protest their own personal insurrections against BART police.

“I hate the BART cops,” said Lloyd Fishpac, 50. “They threatened and cursed us in the past for being naked and we weren’t even on their turf. It’s none of their business. I’m here to raise attention by being naked.”

Ream was not one of the leaders of the protest, but chose to participate actively and boldly because, according to him, it was the right thing to do.

“It’s my duty to be that way,” Ream said. “It’s everyone’s duty.”

BART police spokesman Jim Allison said what set this protest apart from the others was that there was no need to shut down the station.

“There’s no situation on the platform,” Allison said. “We are making sure people are safe and keeping an eye on things.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency is in the process of making a policy that would allow BART to shut off cell service during rare life-threatening emergencies.

BART President Bob Franklin said that it should take about a month to get the SFMTA Board and other companies concerned to finalize a policy.

“We’ll be vetting it out with various agencies,” Franklin said. “It’ll be a week or two for BART staff to come up with some words. It’ll take some time for people that specialize in this to provide some comments. Within a month is reasonable, maybe a little longer.”

The drafting of such a policy would directly go against one of the demands of Anonymous, which includes an apology for shutting off cell phone service after a protest August 11.

The other demands include the firing of BART spokesman Linton Johnson and BART Chief Kenton Rainey, new training for all BART officers, the removal of guns from BART police, and the reopening of the investigation of the death of Charles Hill. According to the Anonymous Tumblr website, the protests will continue every Monday until the demands are met.

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