Peaceful BART Protest Disrupts Monday Night Service

By Erika Heidecker (BCN)
Tuesday August 16, 2011 - 10:33:00 AM

Sharlana Turner, a student and city worker in Berkeley, hoisted a sign that read "You can jail a revolutionary, but you cannot jail the revolution" at a San Francisco BART station Monday evening as demonstrators around her chanted "No justice, no peace -- disband the BART police." 

Shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, about 50 protesters gathered at BART's Civic Center station in response to the agency's decision to interrupt cell phone reception last week in order to disrupt a planned protest spurred by the fatal shooting of 45-year-old Charles Hill on July 3 by BART police. 

The fatal shooting was followed by a protest on July 11. During that demonstration, protesters "showed a propensity to create chaos on the platform, and that is unacceptable" because it jeopardizes customer and employee safety, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said. 

To prevent a similar disruption Thursday, BART temporarily suspended wireless services because "we had knowledge ahead of time about the time, place and manner of how this illegal protest was going to take place, and were forced into a gut-wrenching decision of how we were going to stop it," Johnson said. 

The decision to interrupt wireless service has been widely criticized and reported worldwide, and already spurred a data breach by hacker protest group "Anonymous" on the agency's myBART.org website, which is used for marketing and to announce deals near BART stations. 

Turner said she did not participate in other protests, but decided to participate Monday because Anonymous organizers said it was going to be peaceful. 

Turner said she was there because of the July 3 shooting as well as Thursday's wireless disruption.  

"It's everything combined," she said. "You can't separate these things." 

While the protest was peaceful, it led to the temporary closures of four downtown BART stations during rush hour, which left some commuters frustrated with the demonstrators. 

BART officials closed the Civic Center station at around 5:30 p.m. and the crowd walked down Market Street to the Embarcadero. BART police shut down the Powell Street, Montgomery Street, and Embarcadero stations as the crowd made their way along the train route.  

Along the way, demonstrators met with some angry reactions from thwarted commuters who shouted out insults. 

One of the protesters clad in a Guy Fawkes mask like the ones featured in the movie "V for Vendetta" said he welcomed their angry responses and that he appreciated that freedom of speech was their constitutional right.  

"Good for them," he said when a man called him a nihilist and another made an obscene gesture. 

The demonstrators ended their walk at Embarcadero Station, where officers in riot gear lined the street and blocked the station entrance.