BART Protests Redux

There have been 2 days of protests inside the BART system. On Thursday Aug 11, protests got off to a slower than anticipated start when BART turned off the cell phones in all the downtown stations, making Flash-Mob style organizing impossible. Today, protesters roamed around downtown, causing BART to close all the stations from Civic Center to Embarcadero.

On Thursday, protesters tried to forcibly disrupt train service in protest to all the recent BART police killings. More about that later but I say that disruptive actions like this should certainly not be the first act of a civil disobedience group. It shows a lack of maturity, strength of character, and moral high ground.

Now let’s discuss all the recent BART police killings.

The No Justice No BART website has this on their homepage

DISBAND THE BART POLICE!
No Justice No BART is a campaign of protests targeting the BART system. We are fighting for justice for Charles Hill, Oscar Grant, Fred Collins, Bruce Seward, Jerrold Hall, Robert Greer, and all victims of BART police violence and murder. We demand that BART disband its murderous, inept, corrupt police department.

Who are all these victims? Let’s find out. Tell me how you feel about BART after reading their stories.

(much of the text below was lifted directly from the mentioned news outlets)

Charles Hill was shot and killed July 3. The BART survellence video shows the officer shooting and then a knife with a 4″ blade skittering across the floor at the officer. I would conjecture that Mr Hill was holding the knife high and the shock of being shot caused him to throw it down forcefully. I don’t know how close Mr Hill was to the officer but the video implies the officer did the right thing as a dangerous attacker approached the uniformed officer wielding a knife despite being told to drop it.

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Oscar Grant was shot and killed Jan 1, 2009. BART officer Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years, minus time served. He served his time in the Los Angeles County Jail, occupying a private cell away from other prisoners. He was released on June 13, 2011 and is now on parole. Video of the shooting shows Mehserle and the officers around him very surprised and distraught immediately after the shot; it didn’t look like Mehserle intended to shoot him, he likely thought he was reaching for his Taser. A horrible, tragic mistake.

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Fred Collins was shot and killed on Saturday July 19th, 2010 by Oakland and BART police officers after charging against them with knives in each hand … The incident began when a 911 call alerted Oakland police to a man wielding a knife in the 3200 block of East 12th Street… Upon seeing the BART police officers approach him, one witness said, Collins began screaming “shoot me, shoot me, shoot me” and took off running, Thomason said… Oakland police Officer Jeff Thomason said Collins had been arrested in the past for prior incidents of assaults on officers, terrorist threats and resisting arrest.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/19/BAPG1EGADV.DTL

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Bruce Seward
Officer David Betancourt, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, shot a naked Bruce Seward outside the Hayward BART station before dawn on Memorial Day in 2001. Seward, 42, was asleep on a bench and appeared unconscious. After calling for an ambulance, Betancourt approached when Seward woke up, grabbed the officer’s nightstick and swung, smacking the patrol car, police said. Betancourt used pepper spray on Seward, but it had no effect, police said. Family members and mental health advocates decried the shooting, but a BART review cleared Betancourt of wrongdoing.
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oakland-bart-shooting-headlines/ci_11369405

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Jerrold Hall
A tragic story of a boy who was possibly murdered by a BART police officer and the corrupt coverup where the officer got away… November 15th, 1992.
http://www.sfbg.com/2009/01/05/lethal-force?page=0,0

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Robert Greer… I can’t find any information about him

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And there is one more they left off the list, shot by SF Police while getting off the Muni:
Kenneth Harding
Shot and killed by San Francisco police July 16th, 2011 after getting off a Muni train.
Convicted of trying to force a 14 year old into prostitution, wanted for questioning in connection with a recent murder in Seattle, he ran from police and shot at them when they questioned him for fare evasion. The police returned fire but he may have accidentally or intentionally killed himself. Officers were firing .40 caliber bullets but he was killed by a .380 bullet and they found a .380 caliber bullet in his jacket, the gun was stolen from the scene (because, hey, free gun!) so they don’t know. Read the article.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/21/kenneth-harding-shooting-self-inflicted-killing_n_906356.html

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Correct me if I’m wrong but it looks like the score that No Justice No BART is trying to settle is:

* Drunk guy threatening officer with a knife gets shot in 2011
* Crazy guy with a knife attacking people gets shot in 2010
* Mistaken use of a gun by an officer, paid for with a year in jail in 2009
* Crazy guy swinging a club at officer is maced and shot in 2001
* A very suspicious, corrupt shooting by an officer in 1992
* Robert Greer ???

It doesn’t seem like a very high score.

March 1 thru August 16th homicides in the Bay Area

Have you seen how violent San Francisco and Oakland are and what the police deal with? Take a look at Crimemapping. From March 1 til today, there were at least 75 reported murders in the Bay Area. Over the three day July 4th weekend there were some 200 assaults (I would try to measure a longer period but the mapping website can only put a maximum of 800 dots on a map). To be clear, I am not saying anything like “come on, give the police a break”, I am saying that we are living in a violent, dynamic world and we shouldn’t be surprised when we see violent, dangerous behavior met with strongly.

July 4th weekend assaults

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If you disagree with where I’m going with this, all I ask is that you counter my argument with facts. And if I have swayed you, tell a friend.

(I wrote most of this yesterday but updated enough that I want you to notice this is a new version, hence “Redux” in the title.)

7 Comments

  1. lee says:

    And it really bugs me that I felt it prudent to backup my website for fear that it would be defaced by some “Anonymous” hacker that disagreed with me.

    Nice going, hacktivists.

  2. Bathes in Milk says:

    Think about others.
    Consider the handicapped lady yesterday, who limped to Montgomery; she was told Embarcadero was open. When she got to Embarcadero, it was closed too. How many people could not afford the option of a cab, and limped through the downtown trying to find an alternative way to get home or to a doctor’s or perhaps a hospital?

    Consider the people with few options: elderly, people with children, people with injuries, the blind riders, and otherwise physically impaired.

    Nice job, “activists”! Way to go mobilizing that base of support.

    Besides, your rights end where mine begin – I pay good money to support public transit to get home safely. A person waving a weapon in the train station is a public danger.

    BART police do a job you couldn’t pay me to do, and I feel safer with armed BART police, especially after the protesters closed four stations. By blockading the stations the protesters alienated potential supporters. Do protesters here just protest for the sake of protesting?

    Looks that way to me. Message to the protesters: try truly peaceful means.

  3. lee says:

    Followup: here is a letter from BART posted today. I like what they have to say.

    08.20.2011
    A letter from BART to our customers
    Dear Customers,

    BART’s top priority is to ensure the safety of its passengers. Prior to a planned protest on August 11, 2011, BART obtained credible information that led us to conclude that the safety of the BART system would be compromised. Out of an overriding concern for our passengers’ safety, BART made the decision to temporarily interrupt cell phone service on portions of its system. We are aware that the interruption had the effect of temporarily preventing cellular communications for many BART passengers and their families; and we regret any inconvenience caused by the interruption. We want to take this opportunity to share some of the information that led to this decision.

    Imminent Threat of Unlawful and Dangerous Activities on BART Platforms

    July 11 Protest
    On July 11, a group gathered at the BART Civic Center Station in San Francisco to protest the fact that, on July 3, a BART Police Officer shot and killed Charles Hill at that station.

    During that protest, one person climbed on top of a train and many other individuals blocked train doorways and held train doors open. During the course of the event, which occurred during the peak of rush hour, individuals used BART trains to move between stations, and caused the shutdown or partial shutdown of other stations.

    These actions violated the law by creating a serious threat to the safe operation of the BART system, disrupting the service of 96 BART trains (approximately two-thirds of the trains operating during the rush hour), causing the closing of stations, and putting at risk the safety of thousands of passengers and BART employees.

    When trains are not able to move or pick up passengers, the platforms can quickly become overcrowded. This is very dangerous due to the increased possibility that people will fall from the platforms onto the trackway. The trackway is five feet below the platform edge and contains the electrified 3rd rail.

    Also, when one train stops, all trains behind it must stop. In some cases, trains must stop in tunnels, which delays the arrival of emergency medical help for passengers in need of assistance. Additionally, self-evacuation by passengers in underground tunnels is another potential dangerous outcome of interference with BART service.

    Planned August 11 Protest
    Early in the week of August 8, the BART Police Department received credible information that individuals were planning a surprise demonstration against BART police shootings at specific BART station platforms on August 11. On August 10, BART Police obtained further information regarding the individuals’ plans for color-coded teams to conduct lawless activity on the platforms. The additional information disclosed detailed organizational coordination among multiple “affinity groups” in addition to the organization that had sponsored the July 11 disruption.

    The August 10 intelligence revealed that the individuals would be giving and receiving instructions to coordinate their activities via cell phone after their arrival on the train platforms at more than one station. Individuals were instructed to text the location of police officers so that the organizers would be aware of officer locations and response times. The overall information about the planned protest led BART to conclude that the planned action constituted a serious and imminent threat to the safety of BART passengers and personnel and the safe operation of the BART system, at a level that could far exceed the protest of July 11.

    Based on that assessment, BART decided to interrupt cell phone service at targeted portions of its system for up to 4 hours, beginning at 4:00 p.m., the time that the individuals were scheduled to assemble. BART notified the affected cellular service providers shortly before it implemented the temporary interruption. Service was turned back on at 7 p.m., earlier than planned, when safety concerns abated.

    At the affected portions of the BART system, there was no cellular service on the platform level, and service on the concourse level was also affected in some areas. Cellular service was fully available at the street level and at all above-ground BART stations and trackways.

    BART took prudent measures to protect passengers during the time that cell phone service was unavailable. More than 120 extra BART uniformed Police Officers and Operations personnel carrying radios and wearing reflective vests were assigned to be in the four downtown San Francisco stations and on trains traveling between those stations. Additionally, passenger courtesy phones on the platform were available to provide direct communication with Station Agents. BART also has intercoms at each end of each train car, allowing passengers to contact the operator for assistance. No passenger emergencies were reported to BART during the period of the cellular service interruption.

    First Amendment Issues
    For more than 25 years, BART has had a policy regarding the exercise of First Amendment free speech rights in areas of its stations where it can be done safely and without interference with BART’s primary mission of providing safe, efficient and reliable public transportation services. To implement this policy, BART has designated the areas of its stations that are accessible to the general public without the purchase of tickets as unpaid areas that are open for expressive activity upon issuance of a permit subject to BART’s rules. To protect public safety and provide safe and efficient public transportation, BART has restricted access to the “Paid” and “Platform” areas of its stations to BART station employees and ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART trains.

    BART’s temporary interruption of cell phone service was not intended to and did not affect any First Amendment rights of any person to protest in a lawful manner in areas at BART stations that are open for expressive activity. The interruption did prevent the planned coordination of illegal activity on the BART platforms, and the resulting threat to public safety.

    BART’s Future Plans
    At a special Board meeting on Wednesday, the Board will discuss the temporary interruption of cell service on portions of the BART system that occurred on August 11, and we invite the public to participate in this discussion.

    Thank for your patience and we value your continued support.

    Bob Franklin, BART Board of Directors President
    Sherwood Wakeman, Interim General Manager

  4. Checking IN says:

    * Drunk guy threatening officer with a knife gets shot in 2011:
    Seems to me that this one is a doozy. The video from BART is inconclusive, which is surprising to me because they cover EVERY angle in a train and only had one viable angle in a station; however, the officer on camera made no attempt to subdue Hill outside of putting on his gloves and drawing his sidearm.

    * Crazy guy with a knife attacking people gets shot in 2010:
    This incident should never have involved BART police, as the reports came outside of the BART area and should have been dealt with with local police. The man was obviously either intoxicated or otherwise mentally incapacitated, and I do not doubt that the local police would have dealt with him accordingly on their own.

    * Mistaken use of a gun by an officer, paid for with a year in jail in 2009:
    If the man thought he was reaching for his taser, it should have been painfully obvious he had drawn the wrong weapon from the feel and weight alone. If this error was as a result of his training, the fault lies with the BART Police organization itself. Regardless, it should be apparent my views on whether the involuntary manslaughter charge was adequate in the court case.

    * Crazy guy swinging a club at officer is maced and shot in 2001:
    Again, there were other ways that a trained officer should be able to deal with an unruly/intoxicated suspect other than jumping from mace to a sidearm. I feel like ending your blog with statements like this adds an unnecessary bias to the facts you’d previously presented.

    * A very suspicious, corrupt shooting by an officer in 1992:
    Nothing much to add here. RIDICULOUSLY shady event, followed in 1996 by the suicide of the officer involved.

    * Robert Greer ???:
    I also couldn’t find anything. I find this suspect as well, but it could be because he’s got a common name.

    In regards to Kenneth Harding, he was shot by SFPD disembarking from MUNI, which is a transit authority able to operate without its own police force by utilizing local police in the case of an emergency. Not relevant to the topic at hand, seeing as you’re addressing the No Justice No BART’s blogging about disbanding the BART police force.

    As for the assault/murder statistics involving Oakland and San Francisco, I don’t know what you’re comparing them to, or how they’re relevant. The issue is the BART Police and how they’ve handled the aforementioned situations, at least two of which have no evidence of “violent, dangerous behavior,” so there was absolutely no reason for them to be “met with strongly” by the BART officers.

  5. lee says:

    Dear Checking IN (who left a fake email address),

    You wrote:
    >* Drunk guy threatening officer with a knife gets shot in 2011:
    >Seems to me that this one is a doozy. The video from BART is inconclusive, which is surprising to
    >me because they cover EVERY angle in a train and only had one viable angle in a station; however,
    >the officer on camera made no attempt to subdue Hill outside of putting on his gloves and
    >drawing his sidearm.

    Please correct me if I am wrong but it appears you are saying that there is a grand cover-up where video camera evidence that would exonerate Charles Hill is being suppressed. That’s a bit far fetched to make that your primary objection.

    .

    >* Crazy guy with a knife attacking people gets shot in 2010:
    >This incident should never have involved BART police, as the reports came outside of the BART area
    >and should have been dealt with with local police. The man was obviously either intoxicated or
    >otherwise mentally incapacitated, and I do not doubt that the local police would have dealt with
    >him accordingly on their own.

    It sounds like your objection is that BART didn’t have jurisdiction. That sounds a bit thin too.

    .

    >* Mistaken use of a gun by an officer, paid for with a year in jail in 2009:
    >If the man thought he was reaching for his taser, it should have been painfully obvious he had >drawn the wrong weapon from the feel and weight alone. If this error was as a result of his
    >training, the fault lies with the BART Police organization itself. Regardless, it should be
    >apparent my views on whether the involuntary manslaughter charge was adequate in the court case.

    >it should have been painfully obvious he had drawn the wrong weapon from the feel and weight
    >alone.

    I disagree about the “feel and weight” argument. I have on rare occasion made incorrect decisions: grabbed a fork and tried to cut my food with it, put my car key in my front door lock. I should have been able to tell. I believe he made an incorrect snap-judgement. Additional training might have stopped this mistake from happening, or not; it’s hard to tell.

    .

    >* Crazy guy swinging a club at officer is maced and shot in 2001:
    >Again, there were other ways that a trained officer should be able to deal with an
    >unruly/intoxicated suspect other than jumping from mace to a sidearm.

    Really? What would you use? Did you learn something out of Stranger From A Strange Land? The escalation route for a cop is straightforward, always be one tool ahead of your opponent: voice of authority –> stick / mace / Taser –> gun.

    .

    >I feel like ending your blog
    >with statements like this adds an unnecessary bias to the facts you’d previously presented.

    Like what? I’m not sure what you mean.

    .

    >As for the assault/murder statistics involving Oakland and San Francisco, I don’t know what you’re
    >comparing them to, or how they’re relevant.

    They are relevant because, as I wrote “Have you seen how violent San Francisco and Oakland are and what the police deal with?… we are living in a violent, dynamic world and we shouldn’t be surprised when we see violent, dangerous behavior met with strongly.”

  6. Good Cop says:

    ” voice of authority –> stick / mace / Taser –> gun.”
    Stick/mace/taser is not a single choice. You also left out fist, elbow, knee, and boot. A gun is not just another weapon, it’s a lethal weapon. And in a concrete and metal station full of people, it’s the weapon most likely to go through the perp or miss and ricochet, hitting someone else. If your first reaction to a guy with a knife is to draw your gun (when you know how to disarm him with a stick or bare hands), you’ve failed even before you pull the trigger.

  7. lee says:

    Good Cop (who also gave a fake name and email address (which I believe is representative of cowardice and shame, but I digress)),

    Yes, I skimped a little on the comparison of “stick / mace / Taser”. I don’t know the correct terminology but I wanted to make a nod to “non-lethal but more powerful ranged and non-ranged weapons depending on the threat level of the attacker”. I’d welcome some input on the various levels of responses.

    However, your comment “If your first reaction to a guy with a knife is to draw your gun (when you know how to disarm him with a stick or bare hands), you’ve failed even before you pull the trigger.” is dumb. Following the rules of escalation (which you chose not to disagree with but instead clarify), it is absolutely the wrong choice to chose a bare handed disarming technique against an attacker with a knife. That would be a stupid choice, guaranteed to provoke the attacker (who now legitimately believes to outmatch you) and escalate the situation; someone is definitely going to get hurt and it will likely be the officer.

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