If you can’t stop ’em, hope they disappear.
As another Monday approaches, so too does another BART protest. In hopes of stopping the civil actions sooner rather than later, transit agency officials are exploring different options.
Possibilities include state legislation that would allow for misdemeanor charges against those arrested, preventing them from returning, or merely hoping the movement dies on its own.
BART board members say they are now in a wait-and-see mode.
Bob Franklin, president of the board of directors, said waiting for the protests to fizzle out is not an official strategy, but it appears to be happening.
“It seems to be losing traction,” he said. “There are less people attending the Monday night protests.”
As a backup, however, BART has asked to be a part of Assembly Bill 716, which would give the transit agency the authority to issue restraining orders against protesters with multiple violations within the past 90 days. If those people return, they could be arrested and charged with misdemeanors.
Franklin said the legislation would give BART an option to help stop the protests.
“It’s not the main strategy,” Franklin said. “It would just be an option.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has until Oct. 9 to sign the bill, along with 600 others. Brown has not taken a stance on AB 716, according to his office.
Protesters — whose numbers have varied from nearly 100 early on to only two dozen last week — say they are targeting police brutality, specifically the fatal shootings of Oscar Grant III in 2009 and Charles Hill on July 3.
Online hacker group Anonymous became involved following the BART administration’s decision to shut down cellphone service in downtown San Francisco stations for a planned July 11 protest. Anonymous has called for demonstrations every Monday until its demands are met, including disbanding BART’s police force.
That demand has not been met.
“We need to offer a safe system,” Franklin said, adding that he doesn’t think the police force will be disbanded. “If there’s a better option [than BART police], let’s hear it. But just to say it needs to be disbanded isn’t enough.”
BART administrators are planning a public meeting where protesters can voice their concerns. Franklin said a similar tactic was taken over the outrage caused by the cellphone situation. As a result, a new policy is being discussed. A meeting date, though, has not been set.
Protester Christian Ream said while he doesn’t think the BART police will actually be disbanded, that’s not what matters.
“To me the issue is deeper,” he said at a recent protest. “This is a way to show people there’s a way to stand up and disbanding the BART police is just the right thing to do.”
For now, protesters say they’re not going away. Another demonstration is planned Monday, which will be the eighth since the July 3 shooting.
By Katie Worth
Examiner Staff Writer
BART is not the only government agency paying mightily for the protests that have plagued the railway.
The City spent close to $100,000 in July and August trying to manage the demonstrations when they erupted above ground, according to data compiled by the San Francisco Police Department.
BART leaders have said the transit agency spent about $300,000 through August trying to control the demonstrations. Neither entity provided figures for the three September protests.
There were five demonstrations against BART in July and August, following the transit agency’s third officer-involved shooting death in recent years. Protests grew larger after BART leadership responded to the demonstrations by shutting down its underground cell signal.
According to police data, the department spent $12,998 aiding BART in the first protest, on July 11, and about the same amount at a second protest a month later. But the cost rose after that, once the online hacker group Anonymous got involved.
Police spent $17,991 on Aug. 15, the first of three Anonymous-led Monday protests in August. A week later, they spent $18,414. And finally, police spent $35,723 to respond to a protest Aug. 29.
About a quarter of the grand total was spent on overtime for police officers.
In the same time period, the cost to BART was $300,000, but BART board president Bob Franklin said that figure does not include a vandalism incident at Glen Park station.