BART Protesters Hardly Heard as Trains Roar By

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BART trains ran on time, stations stayed open and commuters got home without any trouble on Monday as the third consecutive protest went on in the background of a weekday commute.

The inconvenienced added up to the two men arrested at Embarcadero station.

The demonstrations, loosely organized by a group calling itself Anonymous, began after July 3 when BART police shot and killed 45-year-old Charles Hill on the Civic Center platform. But their focus became confused after Anonymous, upset by a decision by BART to cut off cellphone service to thwart one protest in July, retaliated by hacking into a BART website.

At that point, supporters also began rallying against BART police for violating the protesters’ civil liberties. For two consecutive Mondays, the protests — peaking at some 200 participants on Monday, August 22, disrupted BART trains between 5 and 8:30 p.m.

On Sunday, Anonymous attempted to return the focus to Hill’s shooting and to avoid annoying commuters by asking supporters to keep the rally aboveground.

The protest started at around 5 p.m. with 50 people marching to Embarcadero station, where the two men were arrested for disturbing BART operations, a BART spokesman said. Protesters maintained that at least one of the protesters, Robert Krystof, was arrested while following what protesters had assumed were the rules — paying the fare to enter and exit the platforms, and returning to the “free speech zone” outside the fare gates when told to by police.

After the arrests, the marchers returned to Civic Center and dispersed without incident sometime before 8 p.m.

The goal of today’s protest was to continue to call attention to Hill’s death, without inconveniencing commuters. “Protesters haven’t been the ones shutting down stations,” said Mario Fernandez, of Oakland. “That’s BART police.”

Ideally, he said, next week’s protest will be peaceful, like today’s. However, at times there are some who want to disturb the peace by blocking the streets or throwing firecrackers at police, like protesters did last week, he said.

Among other demands, the protesters want BART to disarm its police and issue an apology for blocking wireless service.

“What can you do, other than telling them to stop?” Fernandez asked rhetorically.

Unlike last week, protesters this Monday had civil discussions with some of the counter-protesters. Last week, a commuter allegedly punched protesters, and was punched back.

Kurt Wagner, 28, a student from City College who supports BART police, had a discussion with Dr. Rupa Marya, a doctor who had treated Hill in the past.

“Why did he get shot?” Marya asked Wagner. “Why didn’t they find another way to demobilize him?”

“In a split second, have you had to make a decision about whether your life or the life of people to the left or front of you were in danger?” Wagner asked, noting that he had served in the military.

Jeff Hodgins, 35, held a sign that read, “Don’t want to get shot, don’t attack the police with a deadly weapon.”

“It is good,” Marya said, “that we are having these discussions face to face.”

Mona Caron, a well-known muralist, said that police should be trained to subdue a person who is mentally ill without killing them.

Some said they would continue protesting every Monday until officials meet their demands. “You’re really protesting next Monday?” someone asked Fernandez. “That’s a holiday.”

“Then we definitely won’t be bothering any commuters,” Fernandez said, firmly.

“We will be back next week,” he continued.”And by we, I mean me.”

5 Comments

  1. randolph mortimer

    perhaps unsurprisingly the protestors have a grossly exaggerated sense of their relevance and importance.

    perhaps because of all the press they’re getting.

  2. sfmissionman

    “Mona Caron, a well-known muralist, said that police should be trained to subdue a person who is mentally ill without killing them.”

    Perhaps Caron should do the training. Or perhaps she can recruit someone. But more likely, if she gets beyond wishful thinking, she’ll realize that there aren’t many non-lethal options when being attacked by an armed person, mentally ill or not.

  3. STC

    I like the use of the black and white photos! Great job!

  4. TC

    These people are getting far more attention than they deserve. There must be something more relevant going on in the city/neighborhood, right?

  5. TC

    BO-RING!!! Enough with the black and white for dramatic effect pics.

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