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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Operation BART (Part 2) 

As you might have expected, BART overreacted to the protest called by Anonymous:

The busy evening commute out of downtown San Francisco gave way Monday to a chaotic cat-and-mouse game between police officers and roving protesters who lashed out at the transit agency for temporarily shutting down underground cellular phone service last week.

BART closed all four downtown San Francisco stations - Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero - soon after the protest began at 5 p.m. Officers in riot gear blocked entrances as many train riders fumed on the sidewalks and tried to figure out how to get home. All stations were reopened by 7:30 p.m.

BART is playing a high stakes game, trying to inflame its commuter ridership against protesters angry at the agency's police violence and suppression of cell phone communication. According to Mission Local, the station closures had the absurd result of enabling about 150 protesters to strand hundreds of commuters. Politically, it has an obvious allure, but ignores the possibility that the protesters and their supporters can make the operation of the system extremely difficult.

It is possible that the BART response is indicative of a more serious governmental concern, the fear that thousands of people may attempt to shut down services essential to day to day economic activity within cities in response to policies of austerity and militarism. If one evaluates the pictures of threatening riot police at various downtown BART stations in this light, it makes more sense. Hence, the deployment, which creates a comical first impression, is designed to normalize such actions in the future as an appropriate response to any form of political protest or unrest.

Of course, the commuters find themselves in the middle. One woman complained that she couldn't get to her children's preschool on time to pick them up. As the parent of a four and a half year old, I empathize, but it is worth noting that Oscar Grant doesn't have to worry about this sort of thing anymore in regard to his young daughter. BART police officer Johannes Mehserle killed him. Sometimes, it is important to see beyond your immediate needs.

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