BART board unlikely to call for charges dropped against Black Friday 14

Following more than two hours of public comment Thursday in support of a group of protesters known as the Black Friday 14 at the BART Board of Directors meeting, board members signaled it is unlikely they will call for charges to be dropped against the group.

BART board director Tom Radulovich told the San Francisco Examiner there’s a “slim chance” his colleagues would agree to adopt a resolution to ask the Alameda District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley, to drop the charges. The board previously voted to ask that the $70,000 restitution be dropped but not the charges.

Director Rebecca Saltzman told the Examiner her resolution in February for the board to ask the DA to drop charges did not have majority support, and “I don’t think board opinions have changed.”

The Black Friday 14 chained themselves to a BART train in November 2014 at the West Oakland station, delaying the transit system in support of black lives nationally. BART was targeted due to its economic importance to the region and the 2009 death of unarmed black man Oscar Grant at the hands of BART police.

The 14 protesters, including Alicia Garza, co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, face misdemeanor charges from O’Malley.

BART board director John McPartland said asking for the charges dropped would potentially make “safety jeopardized for the public across this nation. It’s a cascading effect.”

More than 60 protesters packed the meeting. East Bay faith leaders, activists, labor groups and social justice groups spoke.

“I wish I was one of the Black Friday 14, they lifted up my freedom,” said Oakland native Vanessa Riles, who is black.

Above, Black Friday 14 protester Mollie Costello talks about the BART board.

Jane Martin, representing the SEIU United Service Workers West, said, “Nancy O’Malley will not be elected again with our support if she does not drop the charges.”

Black Friday 14 member Mollie Costello has spent time in Santa Rita prison for another activist action, and told the San Francisco Examiner she was illegally strip-searched and subject to solitary confinement, the subject of a current lawsuit. If convicted on the charges, she said, “I have deep fear of going back there.”

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