SAN FRANCISCO — Monday night’s protests at BART’s Civic Center Station in San Francisco did not result in any arrests by the transit agency’s police, but a spokesman declared that next time, there will be “zero tolerance.”
An estimated 100 people obstructed rush-hour traffic by storming the Civic Center Station at 4:30 p.m. and blocking the doors to the trains. BART officials were forced to close the station, as well the nearby Powell Street and 16th Street stations, after protesters rode trains there.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Tuesday that the average train delay was only seven minutes, but those seven minutes caused commuters to miss connecting trains and made the ride home for some twice as long as normal.
“That delay goes to the protesters,” he said. “That mess, those fringe groups own it.”
No Justice, No BART was the group that organized the protest in response to the BART police shooting July 3 of Charles Blair Hill.
Hill, a 45-year-old transient, allegedly threw a bottle at two BART officers and pulled a knife before one officer shot him to death on the Civic Center Station platform.
Krystof Lopaur, one of the protest organizers, said he considered Monday’s action successful because it was disruptive but peaceful.
The group formed two years ago to protest the killing of an unarmed passenger, Oscar Grant, by then-BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle. Its ultimate goal is to disband the BART police force, but in the short term, it wants the transit agency to release video of the incident that resulted in Hill’s shooting.
“We definitely feel bad that people were inconvenienced, but if anybody who was inconvenienced wants to come out and tell the family members of Charles Hill about your inconvenience, come out and tell them,” Lopaur said. “We didn’t shut down BART for fun. We shut it down so unarmed passengers will stop getting shot.”
At the Powell Street Station on Tuesday, BART rider Michelle Torres said she thought the protesters’ actions had been disrespectful.
“For them making a statement, I think that’s wonderful,” she said. “But using BART, that’s a lack of respect for other people. When you’re affecting their everyday schedule, that’s a lack of respect.”
However, she said she also thinks the protesters have a point in protesting the BART police.
“They should be well-prepared and better trained to deal with certain neighborhoods such as the Tenderloin, where the Civic Center is,” she said.
Johnson said BART warned its passengers of Monday’s protests beforehand and that police handled the protesters well.
“We just wanted to keep people safe,” Johnson said. “Nobody was hurt. We sacrificed on-time performance for safety.”