Black Friday 14 to protest BART board, demand charges dropped

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)

Black Lives Matters protesters will rally at Thursday’s BART Board of Directors meeting and demand the board call for charges against the “Black Friday 14” be dropped.

The group of 14 protesters known as the Black Friday 14 halted BART service for three hours in November last year, garnering misdemeanor charges.

The protesters chained themselves to a train at the West Oakland BART station to stand against what they call police brutality, spurred by the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and others at the hands of police.

BART was the focus of the action due to its 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.

“We hope they will listen to reason,” Cyril said, “and we will bring them reason in numbers.”

Local labor groups and Black Friday 14 protesters protested Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office this month, to urge her to drop the charges.

O’Malley’s office declined to comment. The next court date for the group is Dec. 10.

Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman, said “The decision to prosecute is up to the District Attorney and not BART or the Board of Directors.”

Walter Reilly, lead attorney for the Black Friday 14, said “It would be a tremendous boost if BART voted to drop the charges.”

Reilly believes the DA targeted the protesters because they are prominent civil rights leaders. Among the prominent Black Friday 14 protesters is Alicia Garza, who co-founded the #BlackLivesMatter movement which caught fire

Garza recently addressed the United Nations on structural racism worldwide.

Months prior, she and the Black Friday 14 allies confronted the BART board.

That led to a February vote by the BART board to ask DA O’Malley to not seek restitution charges of $70,000 from the Black Friday 14 for blocking BART trains.

The board was divided, 5-4, because the resolution did not also ask for charges to be dropped.

Directors Rebecca Saltzman, Tom Radulovich, board President Thomas Blalock and Zakhary Mallett supported dropping the charges. Conversely, directors Joel Keller sponsored the motion, to maintain the charges, and Nick Josefowitz seconded it.

Josefowitz did not respond to requests for comment.

Cyril said misdemeanor charges would cause real harm to the civil rights leaders, adding, “These are people with families, and children, trying to fight for freedom.”

The BART Board of Directors meeting begins at 9 a.m., at Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland.

Bay City News service contributed to this report.

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