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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Police State and Prisons
Justice for Charles Hill BART Action Shuts Three Stations in San Francisco: photos, 1 of 2
Protesters promised to disrupt the Bay Area Rapid Transit system's business as usual to send a clear message to BART that the their police department's growing death toll is simply unacceptable. "They succeeded," BART PR spokesman Linton Johnson was forced to concede on the day of action as three of the busiest downtown San Francisco stations were forced to close and trains were disrupted for over two hours.
[Pictured above: BART employees called to duty as green-vested security guards for the protest stand ready, two to every train entrance, to protect against demonstrator interference. It is unknown if they were under orders to manhandle demonstrators as several of them did.]
On the evening of July 3rd, two as of yet unidentified BART police officers responded to a report of an intoxicated man who could barely stand with an open container at the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco. Less than one minute after arriving on the Civic Center platform, the BART cops, armed with pistols, at least one taser, and who knows what other weapons, shot and killed 5' 8", 150-pound Charles Hill with three rounds to his chest. While refusing to release BART's closed-circuit video of the incident and withholding numerous key details, purportedly to avoid biasing witnesses who have not yet been interviewed, BART's police chief Kenton Rainey has publicly rationalized the shooting, repeatedly defended his officers, and declared that he is "comfortable" with his officers having killed Charles Hill.
Eight days after Charles Hill was shot down in the Civic Center station, at least 150 demonstrators converged at the very same station to protest the killing, to demand that the officers be held accountable and that the entire "murderous, inept, corrupt" BART police department be shut down. Charles Hill is the third person killed by BART police in less than three years. At least three others have died at the hands of BART police prior to the recent spree.
Amongst those demanding justice in various downtown San Francisco BART stations on the day of the action were members of Oscar Grant's family and friends, two mothers of victims of Oakland and San Francisco police killings, people of faith, community groups -- including a diverse mix by race, gender, and age -- all present and supportive of the action as it was conducted. BART's PR spokesman Linton Johnson later called participants at the protest "fringe groups" despite the fact that many of the very same people BART conversely trumpets as "community members" who helped to shape their newly instituted citizen board and police auditor (both of which, in a major betrayal to those who had been involved in good faith work toward police oversight, were made toothless in a back room deal with the statewide police lobby PORAC).
Participants began to gather on the Civic Center station platform about 4:30pm. By 5pm, after a short speech about BART, BART police history, and the killing of Charles Hill, demonstrators began to march around the edges of the station platform. The action heated up quickly when protesters began to hold the doors of a train and another attempted to climb onto the top of the train. Green-vested BART employees were able to pull down the person who had climbed a train car, but were unable to forcibly dislodge protesters standing in train doorways. Within minutes, BART riot police began filling the station. Approximately a third to a half of the demonstrators rode the train eastward to the Powell station and then proceeded to hold train doors there. As Civic Center station was closed by BART, those demonstrators who had remained in the station walked to Powell. Mobile demonstrators continued to ride trains and hold doors, delaying numerous BART trains throughout downtown, from Powell Street station to 16th Street Mission station. In time, BART additionally closed the Powell station, as it overfilled with both Civic Center passengers and protesters. Not long after, 16th Street Mission station was closed as well due to ongoing disruptions by protesters. Once the 16th Street station was closed, demonstrators abandoned the BART system at 6:30pm and took over several streets in a march to the Powell Street trolley car turnaround. A massive presence by SFPD prevented the march from continuing on through the Union Square area upscale shopping district. Demonstrators dispersed on their own as planned shortly after 7pm.
It is noteworthy that while BART appears to have had virtually its entire police force on call, utilizing every last bit of riot control gear and weaponry owned by the agency, calling to duty dozens of employees and putting them in green vests downtown, coordinating with San Francisco police and sheriff's departments, BART did not in any way attempt to warn passengers of the very predictable disruptions expected or offer passengers alternate means of transportation (remember that another similar BART action was held in April 2010). No "service advisory" on their website nor announcements in any stations by 4:30pm on the day of the action. No offers of bus service around effected stations. Despite demonstrators best efforts to announce the action as widely as possible ahead of time, BART deliberately left its passengers in the dark about what to expect.
Protesters had promised to disrupt BART's business as usual. "They succeeded," Linton Johnson was forced to concede on the day of action. The very next day Linton growled back by promising "zero tolerance" for future protests, although demonstrators have declared that they remain undeterred and will persist until demands for accountability are met by the Bay Area transit agency.
For more information, see:
For background, see:
How to Slow BART Trains for Social Justice - BART Action April 8th, 2010: video
BART Action Disrupts Trains with "No Justice, No Rush" in San Francisco
Indybay Coverage of the Justice for Oscar Grant Movement
One demonstrator attempted to climb to the top of the train, and almost made it, but was pulled down at by his ankles by green-vested BART employees.
Police closed and cleared Civic Center station shortly thereafter.
Chanting at police line in Powell. This station was closed next as it filled with protesters and commuters from Civic Center.
Justice for Charles Hill BART Action Shuts Three Stations in San Francisco: photos, 2 of 2