Thursday’s No Justice No BART protest–which shut down Powell Street Station in San Francisco–turned into an ugly attack on free speech and freedom of the press when BART police arrested between 25 and 30 people, a third of whom are reported to be journalists, including seven student journalists from San Francisco State University and the Chronicle’s Vivian Ho. Ho, and others were cited for interfering with transit; the student journalists were not cited. Also arrested: No Justice No BART organizer Krystoff.
During the event protesters and the press stayed outside the platform areas of the station. No Justice No BART had called for the demonstration to take place in front of the fare gates in an effort to force BART to open the emergency exits, allowing passengers walk out for free. The portion of BART stations before the turnstiles is considered to be, has been stated by BART to be, a free speech area.
Also on hand, the Department of Homeland Security.
BART police cited the local ABC and CBS news crews reporting on the protests, and some journalists had their San Francisco Police Department-issued credentials confiscated by the SFPD, who aided the BART cops.
The student journalists’ adviser/instructor Justin Becker–whose Twitter feed was instrumental in our reporting of the BART Board of Directors meeting last month–Tweeted
in response to:
Reporter Joshua Wolf–who spent 226 days in prison for protecting his sources, longer than any other journalist in U.S. history–was also detained, but was released and posted great photos. One student journalist tweeted that another was jabbed in the stomach with a baton when she tried to take a photo.
Police surrounded protesters then told them to leave or they would be arrested, a point one reporter brought up doing the press conference above. (During an earlier #OpBART protest, some protesters claimed SFPD arrested them for blocking traffic after ordering them off the sidewalk.)
Arresting journalists for doing their jobs? Arresting students for doing their homework? WTF, BART Police? Anonymous #OpBART said it best:
BART caused the ongoing BART protests and drew Anonymous’s wrath when they shut off cellphone service August 11 to prevent a potential demonstration by No Justice No BART–the organizer’s of Thursday’s event, supported by Anonymous–protesting the shooting death of Charles Hill at the hands of a BART police officer.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian reported that most of the arrestees were cited for:
violation of Penal Code Section 369i, which makes it a crime to disrupt rail service, outlawing activities that “would interfere with, interrupt, or hinder the safe and efficient operation of any locomotive, railway car, or train.”…
The professional journalists in the group have been released after being detained for about 30 minutes, and they’ve been shepherded into an area where they can no longer see the group of arrestees. But a group of three to five San Francisco State University journalism students who don’t have press credentials remain in custody, despite repeated appeals to the police by their faculty advisor Justin Beck.
The Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) unit
an anti-terror unit charged with protecting transportation infrastructure from potential acts of terrorism run by the Transportation Security Administration.
were also present at Thursday’s protest, as they were on August 30. The Department of Justice was present at all #OpBART protests, KALW also reports:
The United States Department of Justice also had personnel on hand for the recent protests by the hacktivist group Anonymous. Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, confirmed that DoJ sent a member of its Community Relations Service to all three OpBART demonstrations this month. CRS, formed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is DoJ’s “peacemaker” for conflicts and tensions stemming from racial or ethnic tensions or civil disorder. Hinojosa also confirmed that CRS staff were present at July and November demonstrations in Oakland over the conviction and sentencing of former BART officer Johannes Mehserle, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Oscar Grant.
VinceintheBay snapped this shot tonight, a perfect expression of San Francisco. But with BART Police behaving as they did Thursday and on August 11, not to mention shooting people at BART stations–free speech is getting squelched, and with it the heart and spirit of San Francisco.
Vince also has raw footage of the protest on his YouTube. Here’s part 1
photo 1: estimarlqk, via OpBART Twitter (estimarlq was also cited by BART Police)
photo 2: VinceintheBay, via OpBART Twitter