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Dozens detained at BART protest, including journalists

By Andrew Leonard September 8, 2011 No Comments Print Share

A protest at Powell Street BART station Thursday evening led to dozens of arrests and delayed commuters attempting to ride BART.

BART Police in riot gear lined the entrances to the station at approximately 5:30 p.m., denying entrance to the subterranean courtyard and entrance gates of Powell Street station. More than 30 people were detained, including up to a dozen journalists, the Beat has learned.

In preparation for and in response to weekly demonstrations, BART police have been shutting down Powell Street Station, saying “unlawful” protests interfere with safe train operation. Unlike previous protests, which have taken place on Monday evenings, this protest came toward the end of the week. One BART police officer said the late-week protest may have been due to the prior Monday being Labor Day.

“If the fare gates are blocked, if the patrons who are trying to utilize the system to get in and to exit can’t do so, we have an unsafe situation,” said Deputy BART Police Chief Daniel Hartwig during a press conference in Powell Street station. Penal Code Section 369i defines interfering with safe operation of vehicles like trains as an unlawful disturbance, he said. “We have absolutely no issues with freedom of speech, as long as the safety of the system is not compromised,” he added.

The Powell Street Station South entrance on Market Street was reopened at approximately 7:25 p.m. on Thursday night and train service to the station resumed shortly thereafter in both directions.

BART riders have taken measures of varying intensity and severity to tell BART about their feelings. One rider-posted message on the north entrance to the station read “Grab a [heart], write a msg to BART,” with a place for fellow patrons to peacefully write their opinions. Other more drastic forms of protest have included the Aug. 14 hacker group Anonymous’s leak of explicit and private information about BART staff and specifically its spokesman Linton Johnson.

Click below to play raw footage of BART Police preparing to open Powell Street Station after the lengthy closure on Thursday night.

The weekly demonstrations at BART have protested against the highly-criticized July 3 fatal shooting of a passenger on the train platform at Civic Center Station. It is unknown how long the weekly protests will continue, as protests have so far been arranged by the loosely organized online hacker group Anonymous.

The California Beat will continue coverage of BART protest-related activity.

Contact Andrew Leonard at aleonard@californiabeat.org.

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