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Alameda County DA drops charges against Black Friday 14, who stopped BART trains

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Alicia Garza, right, joins others during the Black Friday 14 protest that shut down BART service on Nov. 28. (Julia Carrie Wong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The Black Friday 14 will not face jail time for stopping BART trains last year.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced today she is dropping charges against the Black Friday 14, a group of 14 #BlackLivesMatter protesters who blocked a BART train November last year.

As the San Francisco Examiner reported, protesters chained themselves to a train on Black Friday last year at the West Oakland BART station to stand against what they called police brutality, spurred by the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and others at the hands of police.

Though 14 were arrested, 28 were on the platform and more than 250 joined the action, according to the Black Friday 14.

BART was the focus of the action due to its perceived role in gentrification, as well as the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man shot by a BART police officer, said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, and a supporter of the protesters.

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Cyril was among other Black Friday 14 supporters who in November called on the BART Board of Directors to ask O’Malley to drop charges.

“We hope they will listen to reason,” Cyril told the Examiner at the time, “and we will bring them reason in numbers.”

There’s no word on if public pressure or if the mounting public pressure on O’Malley from myriad local unions like the SEIU, AFT 2121 and UESF led her to drop the charges.

Labor leader wrote in a statement that they were grateful to see the dDA drop the charges, considering prominent local labor leaders protested her office in November on behalf of the Black Friday 14.

“We asked District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, ‘Which side are you on?'” they wrote collectively, in a statement.

Prominent local labor leaders, calling on Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to drop charges against the Black Friday 14. Photo by Megan Swoboda/Courtesy AFT 2121, UESF

Prominent local labor leaders, calling on Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to drop charges against the Black Friday 14. Photo by Megan Swoboda/Courtesy AFT 2121, UESF

Local faith leaders also came out strongly to ask O’Malley to drop the charges.

O’Malley’s office did not address any of that political pressure, and wrote in a statement that her decision stemmed from the protesters engaging in a restorative justice process, in which they were asked to make a specific admission:

“We acknowledge that the BART protest on Friday November 28, 2014 conveyed an important message. The method in which it was carried out impacted the Bay Area and was a violation of the statue governing the safe and efficient operation of public transportation.”

In a statement, O’Malley’s office said the charges were dropped “in light of their admission and the participation in the restorative justice process.”

Eva Paterson is president of the Equal Justice Society and facilitator of ‘restorative justice’ process. In a statement sent from the Black Friday 14, Paterson said, “The #BlackLivesMatter movement has forced America and the world to acknowledge that state power is often unleashed on people in deadly and dehumanizing ways. I want to thank District Attorney O’Malley and her staff for taking the just course of action in this matter.”

The news also comes on the heels of another black person’s death in the Bay Area – Mario Woods, who was shot and killed by SFPD Wednesday afternoon.

Perhaps alluding to Woods, and others, the protesters’ announcement included a call to action for the future.

“Our criminal case is over, but the war on Black lives remains,” they wrote.



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