SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A scuffle broke out at a BART station, but after the third week of BART protests all stations remained open with far fewer arrests. This BART protest was noticeably different from the last two. There were no station shut downs and no delays.
Organizers knew they were losing the support of the public. As a result, this Monday's demonstration was a lot less disruptive. The group took a different approach this time around, knowing full well that commuters were growing weary of their weekly protests. They stayed off the BART platform, and instead, started their demonstration outside the Civic Center station.
"Since the BART Police have blamed us for shutting stations, we've decided not to give them a reason to do that again," said a protester who did not want to be identified.
Two people were arrested at the Embarcadero BART station after protesters began to chant "You can't shoot us all."
Police were worried about emotions running high and have said they are not going to be as lenient as they have been during past demonstrations. So far this summer, there have been three protests at the Civic Center BART station. The activist group 'Anonymous' promises there will be a protest every week until their demands are met.
The reasons that brought the protesters together remained the same. They're upset about the shooting death of a homeless man by BART police and BART's decision to shut down cellphone service during a planned protest.
As was the case last week, dozens marched down Market Street, but this time, protesters did not disrupt traffic as they, for the most part, stayed on the sidewalk. Officers with SFPD made sure of that. Last week, the chief warned their response was going to be much quicker this time.
The only time things got intense was when protesters entered the Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero stations. Everyone obeyed police orders and stayed behind the fare gates except for one of the leaders of the demonstration, Krystof. He shouted, "No Justice, No Peace. Disband the BART Police!" Officers arrested him and another man for interfering with BART operations.
|Dozens have been arrested in the ongoing protests.|
In the end, there were no station closures, and no mass arrests like there were last week, which was a big relief to commuters who were tired of the delays.
"Bus or BART last Monday was a mess. So yeah, I'm glad to hear that it's not closed today," said BART rider Shannon Valenti.
"Maybe things are going to de-escalate a little bit and that would be good for dialogue between the two sides," said BART rider Frank Tse.
BART police estimates that about 40 people took part in Monday's demonstration.
Also, several public interest groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to declare that BART broke telecom laws when it cut off cellphone service earlier this month. The groups, including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation say BART's actions set a dangerous example. BART says it was intended to keep passengers safe. The FCC is now reviewing the petition.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that the BART protests have had an impact on Muni. When BART stations are shut down, access to Muni Metro is also cut off. Muni officials say the last protest cost about $70,000 is shuttles and extra staff. And that does not count lost revenue, said Muni spokesperson Paul Rose.
"We're urging the protesters to let service continue, let our passengers get from Point A to Point B," said Rose.
Protesters have been upset that commuters and city officials have been blaming them for service disruptions.
"It's a sad day for our democracy when protesters are vilified in the name of a comfortable commute. BPD needs reform," said blogger Alex Emslie (@SFNewsReporter) via Twitter.
But riders question whether the majority of people who show up to protest even truly know what they are protesting about.
"Half of them probably couldn't even tell you what the actual protest is going to be about today," BART rider Mariano Flores said.
BART Board of Directors member Lynette Sweet says she has been trying to negotiate with some of the protesters, some of whom, she says, seem willing to talk, but she was unable to convince them to cancel Monday's protest.
Protesters vow the demonstrations will continue.