Protest at the Civic Center BART station July 11, 2011
BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit; it's the subway system that serves San Francisco and the surrounding area, and it's recently been in the news for a number of unpleasant incidents in which the transit police have seen fit to fire their side-arms into the bodies of... well... Negroes [and others]
[Note: One loses track of all the shootings. Kenneth Harding was shot and left to bleed out by SFPD officers on July 16, 2011 at the Hunters Point-Bayview Muni Station, allegedly after failing to pay his fare. I initially confused him with Charles Hill, who was shot and killed by a BART policeman at the Civic Center BART station on July 3, 2011. Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a BART policeman at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on January 1, 2009. His killer, Johannes Mehserle, resigned from the BART police force, was tried for second degree murder and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years, and was released in June of 2011.]
This has caused more than a little consternation among certain BART riders who have taken to protest, on a fairly regular basis, especially after the shooting of Charles Hill on July 3 of this year at the
A protest planned for last week, August 8, was apparently thwarted when BART officials ordered cell phone service to the Civic Center station turned off, in what is apparently the first such effort to interfere with cell service by a public agency on record.
A protest of that action, as well as the police shootings of Charles Hill and
In addition, as they have done at other BART protests, the Authorities deployed their heavily armored, black-clad riot squads in close formation and threatened the protesters with swift and sure dispersal and/or arrest.
Meanwhile, the notorious international hacker squad called Anonymous retaliated for August 8th's cell phone shut down by gaining access to and publishing online the personal information of some 2000 BART riders and calling on participants in the August 15 protest to wear red and Guy Fawkes masks. If you click on the link at the very top of this installment, you'll go to a video of live coverage of the August 15 protest, and you will hear commentary to the effect that few were wearing red and that the mask is supposed to represent some
A fairly comprehensive news story appears in this morning's Chron -- though it was actually more comprehensive last night when posted shortly after the Downtown stations were reopened.
It appears that the majority of BART riders in Downtown San Francisco were seriously discommoded during rush hour by the disruption of service brought on by the protest and the police reaction to it. But at least cell phones weren't interfered with. So there is that. From the comments I've read and heard about last evenings action, the riders were not amused.
I've long said that discommoding the powerful is essential for protest demonstrations to have an effect rather than being dismissed out of hand. That may mean, for example, actions that result in shutting down subway stations, streets, bridges, shutting off or disrupting communications, or what have you.
In the "cat-and-mouse" of yesterday's protest (as the Chron puts it) discommoding tactics were employed both by citizens and by the authorities, with the upshot being a standoff. According to reports and videos I've seen, the protesters marched above ground from the Ferry Building to the Civic Center Plaza (those familiar with San Francisco know these locations well) on Market Street, shutting the thoroughfare down; once they found they could not enter any of the BART stations along the route, they remained assembled at Civic Center Plaza (surrounded by Robo-cops) while a splinter group marched back to the Ferry Building chanting slogans and carrying signs.
For all the rage that is being expressed right now over the inconvenience to commuters, let alone the privacy invasion by Anonymous, in fact, the tactics being employed by the demonstrators are the kind of non-violent civil disobedience measures that are necessary for a protest to have an effect, and further, they are persisting in protest despite being thwarted in reaching their initial objectives.
This is how it is done, and no, one doesn't "like" it. These kinds of protests are disruptive and inconvenient, they disturb one's routine, and they interfere with one's comfort and convenience. That's what has to be done. The argument against this sort of non-violent disruptive protest is that it "punishes the innocent." Well, one might want to take that issue up with the corpses of Oscar Grant and Charles Hill.
BART cops have become notorious for their excessive use of force and for their very itchy trigger fingers. They have long been known for thuggishness toward a certain class of rider, ie: Black men, but they have become murderous, much as the Oakland police department did during the hey day of the Miami Vice-ified drug war. They'll shoot your ass to this day. Ordinary people seem to intellectually understand this is "wrong," but they don't want to be unduly inconvenienced, so they also declare these protests "wrong" because the protesters are getting in the way of their comings and goings. Yet getting in the way -- of ordinary people and the powerful -- is one of the few ways that Americans have left to them that can actually cause the Authorities to change their deplorable behavior.
"But the protesters are behaving deplorably!" Nonsense. Complete nonsense. They are bringing attention to issues and people that are important to them, and they are demanding positive changes in the behavior of Authority. One of the chants they use is: "We are all -- Charles Hill! We are all -- Oscar Grant!" I don't know if you have to live in the Bay Area under oppression to understand the deep emotion such a chant can touch, but it is very effective. What happened to Charles Hill, what happened to Oscar Grant can most certainly happen to anyone the BART cops target -- you, in your narcissistic bubble are not immune.
The protesters themselves are behaving effectively. Which is, of course, a threat to The Powers That Be, which is why such an overwhelming and uncalled for police reaction force is deployed to intimidate the protesters and -- theoretically -- to reassure ordinary BART riders that the Authorities have got their backs. No, that isn't what this deployment of overwhelming and unnecessary force communicates at all. WTF, they've got automatic weapons. No one in the crowd -- so far as we know -- is armed, and there is no hint of a threat of physical violence of any kind by the protesters -- unless of course you consider "protesting while Black" such a threat, which is just stupid.
This overreaction by Authority is one of the characteristics of The Powers That Be when they know they are being shamed and they refuse to take the shame and correct their evil ways. BART is a public agency and they are accountable to the People. They have done everything in their power to avoid accountability -- or shall we say to divert accountability -- in the ongoing struggle against police brutality and overall high-handedness and contempt of the public by the Agency.
I'm sure the BART (and area-wide civic) authorities are well aware that murderous brutality and high-handed contempt of the public by representatives of Authority are sure-fire triggers of civil unrest and disorder, not simply peaceful protest. (We saw this in Britain recently, eh?) BART seems intent on pushing the envelope just as far as they can, pushing the public's rage and reaction buttons to such an extent that there are riots (which there have already been -- on a small scale -- over Oscar Grant's killing and the blank-stare reaction of the BART honchos in their defense of the transit police.)
There are many lessons to be learned in the ongoing struggle against the Police State being imposed on Americans from above. BART is only a tiny corner of the whole, but unless there is significant, persistent, and effective protest, nothing will stand in the way of its expansion.
Those Robo-cops are a threat to everyone.
In the immortal words of MDC (Born to Die):
No fascist USA