Groups protesting police violence closed Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations in San Francisco during morning rush hour and blocked the entrance to the Federal building in Oakland Friday. At least one person was arrested as protesters chained themselves to trains and disrupted service on the rail system.
The latest wave of protests, tagged on social media as #BARTFriday and #MLKShutItDown, came ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and continue a week of similar protests in the Bay Area ahead of the holiday to honor the slain civil rights leader.
The demonstration, dubbed "BART Friday: No Business as Usual," stopped train service at BART’s Embarcadero and Montgomery Street stations, according to San Francisco’s KQED, two of the Bay Area’s most highly trafficked stations. BART confirmed the closures to Embarcadero and Montgomery on its website, noting that it was “due to a civil disturbance.”
Protesters banged spoons on metallic pillars at Embarcadero and chanted “Black lives matter,” San Francisco Chronicle journalist Hamed Aleaziz reported from his Twitter account. Aleaziz also reported that commuters were being denied access to the platform and that the station was closed entirely. The group is demanding lower ticket fares and the disbandment of the BART police department, according to a Facebook page run by the protesters.
Reuters reported that the protest was scheduled to start at 7 a.m.
BART officials said in a statement earlier this week they were not planning to stop the protest but police would respond if the demonstration endangered travelers. “BART fully supports the right to peacefully protest, which is why it has an Expressive Activities Permit process allowing for the expression of First Amendment rights outside the fare gates of our stations,” the statement said. “However, if protesters choose potentially dangerous actions that cause major service disruptions, BART Police are prepared to enforce the law and ensure public safety.”
The transit agency had earlier warned riders that there was “a potential for a major service disruption.”
Photos on Twitter showed the display signs at Montgomery Station, which typically tell riders when trains will arrive, instead carried the message, “Closed. Leave immediately.”
Organizers of the protest say they want BART to shutter its police force and offer discounted tickets for the transit system’s low-income riders.
In addition to protesting civil rights abuses and shootings by BART police — including the killing of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back by Oakland BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in January 2009 — activists are demanding that BART drop charges against 14 people, known as the Black Friday 14, who shut down train service during a protest the day after Thanksgiving at West Oakland Station.