'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, August 22, 2011

Operation BART (Part 3) 

UPDATE 3: Police arrest a woman in Civic Center station who told a police officer: BART police need to be reformed. Make BART safe. Make BART safe:

UPDATE 2: According to Kevin Gosztola:

SF Weekly reports suggest there were not many protesting but there were plenty of reporters and camera crews seeking to cover the protest. Also—get this—protesters were told not to chant by police or they would be arrested.

Protesters on Civic Center platform were chanting, No Justice, No Peace, Disband the BART Police, which was chanted last week. The riot police present told protesters that chanting would mean they would be arrested. This was, of course, absurd to those present so they continued to chant. The police arrested a protester. And then another. And then another.

It appears that one of the arrests was for obscenities that were shouted by an older gentlemen, a thirty-five year old white male, who was wearing a red scarf. If that is indeed the case, he clearly lost control and gave BART police the upper hand in that situation. However, arrested for chanting? For speech in the BART station?

This reaction at the protest likely stems from a rule that BART has decided to institute:

No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.

The police are probably taking a position that chanting would make the assembly on the platform a demonstration or an expressive activity. If they remain silent, the police couldn’t prove they were there to protest. But the moment they open their mouths they would be violating the rule or guideline BART has chosen to enforce.

BART seems to think that protests called by anyone now constitute an imminent lawless action. Anyone listening to radio communications among BART officers can attest to the fact that BART doesn’t know the first thing about peaceably assemblies. For tonight’s protest they were characterizing what was happening as civil unrest. If what was happening is civil unrest, one wonders what would happen if it had to deal with a bunch of Bahrainis in the Pearl Roundabout. And, last week BART was saying the protesters were engaged in civil disobedience but no officers were saying anything about any protesters breaking the law or defying police orders.

UPDATE 1: Massive police presence at Civic Center station to arrest 4 people on the train platform, two of whom had the temerity to shout no justice, no peace, disband the BART police. There are about 100 protesters in the area, with 30 briefly blocking traffic on Powell Street. Civic Center and Powell Street stations have been reopened after being closed.

INITIAL POST: The live reports of the Mission Local blog are quite useful in separating fact from fiction, particularly the kind that one finds in the San Francisco Chronicle, which uncritically relays the perspective of BART and the police. For example, you never would have known, if not for Mission Local, that BART ordered four station shutdowns last Monday in response to the enormous number of 150 protesters. If you've actually been in downtown San Francisco during a major protest, you'd immediately understand the absurdity of it. But, as I said last week, BART and the police have a different motivation than the publicly stated one of safety.

Issues of ideology and political effectiveness aside, the protests are exposing the practices that the police will utilize in urban areas if significant unrest erupts, shutting off electronic communications, shutting down transit service and relying upon the deployment of riot police in large numbers. All of this is done with the objective of fragmenting the protests, while inducing the apolitical public to blame the protesters for the disruption of their lives. In other words, the strategy is to intensify the chaos resulting from protest for the purpose of generating support for even more repressive measures. As they said of BART's inspiration, Mussolini, he made the trains run on time, but, so far, it hasn't done so. Hopefully, the Anonymous collective is learning through practical experience and developing a means to effectively confront it.

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