General Crime

San Francisco Police Arrest At Least 40, Bart Police Arrest 5 During Protests Monday

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At least 45 protesters were arrested during demonstrations against BART Monday night, according to BART officials and police.    San Francisco police arrested at least 40 protesters late in the evening, and a total of five were arrested by BART police on the Civic Center BART platform early in the demonstration, according to officials. The protest on the BART platform started small, with 20 to 30 demonstrators gathered on the platform at around 5 p.m., surrounded by police and reporters. BART police began making arrests minutes after the demonstration began. One man announced to a circle of reporters shortly after 5 p.m. that a BART police officer had told him that if he raised his voice, he would be arrested. He began chanting loudly, and was quickly detained.

BART spokesman Jim Allison declined to say whether BART police used different tactics Monday night than they had during previous protests on July 11 and Aug. 15. “Last night when BART police witnessed what they deemed to be criminal activity they made arrests,” Allison said. He said that all protesters detained on the BART platform were arrested under Section 369i of the California Penal Code, which states that anyone who interferes with the safe and efficient operation of a train is guilty of a misdemeanor. “At least one or two were using amplified devices to shout on the platform level, which creates a dangerous situation” and could prevent riders who are hearing impaired from hearing train announcements, Allison said.

He also said that an unruly group of protesters on the platform creates a danger of someone being knocked onto the tracks, where high voltage rails could cause serious injury. “It is frustrating for our customers to have these continuing disruptions by demonstrators when there has been a program in place for 25 years for peaceful protests outside the fare gates,” Allison said. “We’re going to do what it takes to make sure everyone’s safe,” he said. “If people engage in criminal activity they risk arrest, and that should be clear to everyone based on last night.’

After Civic Center station closed at around 5:30 p.m., protesters were ordered to leave and the group moved into the street, marching up and down Market Street throughout the evening. The Powell Street and Civic Center BART stations were closed at various points throughout the evening as the protesters marched, but Allison said the crowd control was successful in that the Montgomery and Embarcadero stations — the busiest in San Francisco — remained open. He said the agency regretted that the protests were a challenge for San Francisco police, and that many people were inconvenienced on the street level. San Francisco police said they arrested about 40 people during the BART protest and dispersal orders were given several times throughout the demonstration. Two people were arrested shortly after the protest began after disobeying dispersal orders and one person was arrested on suspicion of igniting a flammable substance at Fourth and Market streets, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. When demonstrators marched to the first block of Grove Street, at least 35 others were arrested on suspicion of failure to disperse upon command of a traffic officer and pedestrians in the roadway, Esparza said. Monday night marked the third time that BART stations have been shut down due to protests since July 11. The July 11 protest was organized by the group “No Justice, No BART” in response to an officer-involved shooting at the Civic Center BART station on July 3. A BART police officer shot and killed Charles Hill that day, after Hill allegedly threatened officers with a knife.

On Aug. 11, BART said it had intelligence that another disruptive protest was being planned and shut down cellphone service in several stations to prevent protesters from communicating in stations and tunnels. That protest failed to materialize, leading BART spokesman Linton Johnson to declare the precaution was successful in disrupting the protest. But blocking cellphone service prompted strong criticism from civil liberties groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to declare the tactic was illegal. The tactic also drew the attention of the hacker protest group “Anonymous,” who called on their loose collective of members to hack BART websites, flood BART offices with emails, faxes and phone calls, and called for another protest on Aug. 15.

The Aug. 15 demonstration shut down all four downtown San Francisco BART stations. After that, Anonymous also called for Monday’s protest and for another protest on Aug. 29. BART will hold a special board of directors meeting at their headquarters in Oakland on Wednesday to discuss the tactic of blocking cellphone service to prevent protests. BART has invited members of the public to attend. Blocking cellphone service was ordered by BART’s interim general manager Sherwood Wakeman, leading some board members to criticize BART’s management for not consulting the board before making a decision.

Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reusewithout the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.


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