San Francisco

BART Protest On Monday May Disrupt Commutes

Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius may be sick and tired of the now weekly Monday ritual of BART protests, but evidently, a number people are more than happy to go back for another round.

Organized by the "hacktavist" collective Anonymous, the protest scheduled for this Monday evening is the third against what many have seen as authoritarian behavior by the transit organization.

In July, BART police shot and killed transient Charles Hill inside Civic Center Station when he allegedly charged at officers with a knife. However, the online activists responsible for Monday's protest didn't get involved until BART turned off the cell phone service at a number of San Francisco BART stations as a safety precaution during an August 11th protest against Hill's shooting.

Last Monday's protest saw a large crowd blocking traffic as it marched up and down Market Street. As a result, many downtown BART stations were closed for much of the evening.

Like many other San Franciscans, Nevius showed signs for frustration with the weekly disruptions in service in his column about the protests:

Fun's fun, but the reality is, this is not a widespread protest. Nor is it growing or gaining support. Despite threats of 9,000 protesters, Monday's attendance was generously estimated at 200 at its peak. That may be a big rally in Fresno, but here we call that a typical Friday afternoon on the steps of City Hall.

While protesters may have started with good intentions, their message has been thoroughly muddled. First their complaint was about BART police, and then it was outrage about cutting cell phone coverage. But protesters' main target has become a bunch of weary commuters who just want to go home. They didn't do anything - some of them probably agree with the original concerns - but they are fed up.

A lot of daily BART riders are similarly pissed. The Bay Citizen reports:

A Facebook page called Commuters Take Back BART suggests there may be a showdown Monday at 5 p.m. at the Civic Center station, when Anonymous, a loose-knit group of online activists and hackers, says it will hold what would be the fourth anti-BART protest in two months.

"BART commuters are sick and tired of 'protests' interfering with our right to use public transit, so we can earn a living and get back to our families," a message on the page declares. "Let's take back BART from these misguided protesters and show them they are way out numbered and will not shut down BART again!"

Anonymous seems to be getting the message that they're currently losing in the court of public opinion.

This time, they don't plan on gathering inside Civic Center Station. Instead, they're are going to assemble outside the station's entrance as to lower the probability of the station being shut down and more commuters being inconvenienced.

A statement about strategy for Monday's protest was recently posted on OpBARTSF's Tumbler:

Recently, a document surfaced detailing a plan for the third round of BART protests on August 29th. In it, a suggestion is raised to change the direction of the action: to focus on station closures—rather than police brutality of the BART PD—in an attempt to "shame" BART, or somehow outwit them with logic. The implication is that, once presented with a crowd of protesters bearing signs imploring them not to close stations, BART police will, for unspecified reasons, not attempt to blame closure of the stations on the massed crowd, nor close the stations at all.

Even so, BART officials are warning that station closures may be necessary. If you're depending on BART to get home tonight, it might not hurt to have a back-up plan.

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