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The Real Safety Threat? BART Encouraging Violence Against Protesters

by dave id
After trying to pump up passenger anger against demonstrators since the non-protest on August 11th, such as in the BART-TV propaganda video here, veiled threats against protesters are now coming directly from BART. BART is apparently not only issuing the usual PR statements on its own behalf and/or vilifying nonviolent protesters, but the agency seems to have taken on a new role as the voice of the potentially violent counter-demonstrator as well, masked by a layer of faux concern for protester well being. "I worry somewhat about the protesters, because some people are pretty upset," BART deputy police chief Ben Fairow said Thursday. "We can’t control what they do." That's incredibly ironic and hypocritical of BART considering that the BART PR spokesperson Linton Johnson declared "zero tolerance" for nonviolent in-station protests in July, that BART has played the "passenger safety" card to the hilt in an effort to legally rationalize their shutdown of mobile phone antennas on August 11th, and that BART riot police arrested demonstrators for merely raising their voices on August 22nd.
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
[BART propaganda video featuring KRON4 reporter Mark Jones originally posted at]

So, BART claims they "can’t control" what violent people do in their stations. Is that really the message the agency really wants to be sending out to the riding public? How about Charles Hill and Oscar Grant? Neither was a real threat to anyone but both were shot dead by BART police. And what about the dozens of riot police BART has been filling their stations with since August 11th? According to deputy chief Fairow, they are powerless to stop violently pugnacious people.

Yet BART certainly seems determined to prove that they have absolute control over demonstrators. Their riot police have proven their eagerness to arrest people who dare to speak their minds about BART police brutality. Is this the only reason BART has a "Tactical Team," to silence dissent? BART had no problem with a passenger yelling at protesters on the Civic Center platform on August 22nd.

Why would the agency issue veiled threats to the media of impending, unstoppable beatings of BART critics by unstable or deranged passengers? It's becoming apparent that BART and its police not only approve of physical assaults against demonstrators but the agency is actively using the media to carry the message to the potentially violent authoritarians amongst us that BART has little interest in stopping them and most likely will continue to look the other way -- while their police instead busy themselves dragging away anyone who dares to chant "no justice, no peace, disband the BART police" inside a train station.

Linton Johnson bemoaned "cyber thugs" after the hacking of two BART websites, and his fellow BART spokesperson Jim Allison more recently condemned the release of lewd digital photographs that Linton Johnson himself had irresponsibly posted online on Facebook and other public websites (irresponsible, considering his high-profile profession as BART's mouthpiece), but "muBARTek" appears to be informally ginning up its own cadre of real life thugs to rush into the square (er, platform) on BART's behalf, to do its dirty work. Hey, there's just nothing they can do to stop real violence, even in the presence of dozens of riot-clad BART police.

BART would also have us believe that it's completely safe and appropriate to lock hundreds of passengers within an underground BART station with no notice in the middle of earthquake country, lest leafleters be able to destroy the minds of passengers by handing out fliers critical of Bay Area Rapid Transit's inept, reckless, and corrupt police force. But stopping an actual assault or holding a known attacker accountable? Out of the question.

Remember all this next time you hear BART officials attempting to justify their anti-free speech or anti-protest behavior on the disingenuous premise of the agency caring oh so deeply about "passenger safety."


SFPD and the corporate media are likewise beating the drum of "passenger backlash". San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr: "I don't want this to be construed as delivering a threat, but enough is enough. They made their point, and they are now losing in the court of public opinion."

Note that the SFPD didn't bother to arrest a person who physically battered protesters on August 22nd.

As reported by Bay Citizen, "One commuter turned violent later in the evening, rushing into the crowd of protesters at Civic Center, swinging his fists.... He was briefly detained by police, but let go when no one who’d been struck came forward."

If no victim came forward after the August 22nd assault, then presumably SFPD must have seen the incident themselves since they knew who it was and were able to detain the assailant. If they didn't see it themselves, then there must have been citizen bystander who made SPDF aware of the incident, meaning there was at least one witness to the assault. And yet they let this truly violent person go. Do you think if a protester had punched even a single passenger, with or without a victim to testify, that SFPD (or BART PD) would not have pursued every charge at their disposal against that violent protester?

The day after the protest, SFPD released the names of everyone arrested on a Grove Street sidewalk on August 22nd. Never mind the fierce police reaction to the release of BART police officer information by a hacker. And never mind that many if not most of those surrounded on the sidewalk had been following the street march on the sidewalk the entire time or that there were women who were rushed by police on the sidewalk and beaten with batons.

As for the presumption of innocence, never mind that as well. Odds are that most if not all of the corporate media outlets that published the list of arrestees and their home towns for all the world to see, as if those arrested had already been proven guilty of some horrible crime against humanity, those same corporate outlets will do no follow-up reports after this coming Monday's arraignments on who amongst those arrested will be facing charges moving forward and who exactly had their charges completely dropped. The smear is already in on every last one of them. Job done.


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Comments (Hide Comments)
by A
Police openly say they can't control BART riders if they decide to use violence against us but then openly tell the public they will do everything with in their power to control the protests.
by Robert Benson
I just want to say thank you for the article and for your service to the protesters. As you know the local media has been rather negative to us. Enjoy!
by Kim
...including Charles Hill, Fred Collins, Oscar Grant, Kenneth Harding, and the homeless fellow at Powell Street who the BAPD likely pushed off an escalator a few years ago, thereby killing him.

A recap of my ride home on BART tonight:

Around 6:20pm, as I'm waiting for the train, a staff person gets on the loudspeaker warning passengers about "criminal" activity and encouraging riders to report any such activity immediately. (Is it my imagination, or are these announcements increasing in frequency?)

Around 6:25, a staff person gets on the loudspeaker announcing that there is "no solicitation of signatures" inside of BART. WTF? I take a look around to make sure that some 16-year-old with a clipboard isn't being hassled by the BAPD for collecting donations for his basketball team. But I don't see anybody on the platform collecting signatures.

On the other side of the bay, at about 6:45p, a staff person gets on the loudspeaker to inform a particular passenger that she needs a ticket for her child; and that, when she arrives on the other side of the bay, she will be charged $5 and some-odd cents for her child. (I'm wondering how the staff person arrived at that figure...but am grateful that it's the staff person singling this mother out, at least, rather than the cops. Or, was it that the staff person intended to alert the cops by getting on the loudspeaker????)

BART's dependency on DHS dollars can't be good....
by Hec
The kids collecting cash donations for their basketball team (who aren't selling a candy bar) typically don't really play basketball. But people should give them a few quarters anyway because society is pretty much denying teenagers any chance of legitimately making money these days, and it's security against an increase of anger and theft
by Kim

I don't care whether the kids "really" play basketball or not (nor do I know how you would know whether any particular kid "really" plays basketball or not), but I find the thrust of your remarks offensive.

What you seem to be saying is that the best reason to extend support to a youngster who is reaching out to support her-/himself is to protect YOURSELF against some threat that YOU feel upon being confronted with such youngsters.

All of that said: BART has no business treating public property like a private business establishment.
BART's Media Manipulation Strategy
by Zusha Elinson, Bay Citizen
Tuesday Sep 13th, 2011 6:15 PM

BART's Media Manipulation Strategy
Agency wrote script, tried to escort riders to speak out against protesters

In response to a planned protest Aug. 11, BART recruited loyal riders, prepared a script for them to read from, and hired a car service to take them to and from a press conference intended to sway public perception and media coverage, according to emails obtained by The Bay Citizen.

But only one rider showed up — and he didn’t need a ride, leaving BART with an $872 bill for two SUVs it never used.

The plan was hatched by BART's chief communications manager, Linton Johnson, who also took credit for another idea implemented that day: shutting down cell phone service on station platforms to thwart the protest, which never materialized.

In the emails, sent to his staff on the day of the planned protest, Johnson wrote that BART needed to get “a large group of customers together who are loyal riders to participate” in the press conference that was to take place at Powell Street station after a planned protest at Civic Center station.

The Aug. 11 demonstration would have been the third such protest against the BART police shooting of a knife-wielding homeless man on July 3. A previous demonstration on July 11 had resulted in long delays during the evening commute. BART shut down stations in downtown San Francisco to keep protesters from jumping on trains.

For the press conference, BART wanted riders to step up to the microphone and stick closely to a script prepared by its communications department explaining how the demonstrations had affected their lives. The script, according to one of the emails, would be:

“My name is __________. I take BART from _______(eg, Hayward) to downtown San Francisco. I depend on BART to get me to my destination safely and on-time. Whatever your message is, it is completely lost on me because you’re putting my life at risk. Furthermore you’re making me late. That’s preventing me from being able to (explain hardship such as pick up my children from child care, which means I have to pay an extra __________, or miss my doctors appointment, which means I will be sick for xxx time or miss my job interview, xxx). We riders demand an immediate end to these illegal acts that make us late and put our lives at risk!”

To ensure that a protest wouldn't delay the commuters on their way to the press event, Johnson instructed his staff to coordinate with BART police to “make sure they can get to the news conference location safely and on-time (maybe get a van, or a special train, etc.).” BART police vans were already in use, so the transit agency instead hired two SUVs with drivers at a cost of $872, according to BART spokeswoman Luna Salavar.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said this week that the communications department called riders who had previously contacted BART to express their support. But only one person agreed to come out to the press conference — and with the cell-phone story dominating the news that night, no print journalists quoted the man.

In the weeks that followed, as protests intensified, causing delays and station closures, the media had little difficulty finding frustrated commuters to interview. And for several weeks, without help or prompting from BART, stories about angry commuters dominated the BART protest coverage.

Allison declined to offer his opinion on Johnson’s plan.

“It was my supervisor’s decision to make,” he said. “I’m not going to publicly assess his decisions.”

After the fifth protest, BART estimated at it had spent $300,000 on staff overtime and other costs, including, presumably, the two private cars. There have been seven demonstrations since the July 3 shooting; the most recent was Monday night.

The emails also show that Johnson called local television news stations the night before the planned protest trying to persuade them not to air any coverage in advance of the demonstration.

BART later produced a video featuring angry commuters, which the transit agency posted on its website on August 16th, after another protest.

Johnson, who did not return calls or emails seeking comment for this story, has been out of the office since a group of hackers known as Anonymous publicized partially nude photos of him with other men last month in retaliation for the cell phone shut down. Gay and lesbian activists were outraged and threatened to protest the weekly anti-BART demonstrations organized by Anonymous.

Johnson has been on extended family leave, according to BART officials. His out-of-office email response says he’ll be back Sept. 19.
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