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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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UncategorizedBART protests, $70,000, and free speech

BART protests, $70,000, and free speech

Should a public agency force protesters to pay the costs of a demonstration?

A protest shut the BART system down for a few hours; should demonstrators be forced to pay?
A protest shut the BART system down for a few hours; should demonstrators be forced to pay?

 

By Tim Redmond

JANUARY 14, 2015 – In September, 1981, thousands of antinuclear protesters showed up at the gates of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to try to prevent the toxic nuke on an earthquake fault from opening as scheduled. The blockade went on for two weeks; by the time it had ended, an engineer discovered that the plant’s owner, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., had installed some critical hardware upside-down. The safety review and rebuild of the plant took years.

But before the demonstration was even over, a right-wing legal group sued the Abalone Alliance and some protest organizers for $1 million. The group, representing a utility shareholders’ group and some conservative organizations that liked nuclear power, argued that the blockade was costing taxpayers money (to arrest the protesters), costing utility users the right to have nuclear power, and costing PG&E shareholders money because the ignition of a very expensive power plant was delayed.

Everyone knew that the Abalone Alliance, a loose collection of largely anarchic clean-power groups, didn’t have $1 million. Most of my friends who were involved didn’t have $100. But that wasn’t the point: The lawsuit was designed to intimidate the protesters, force them to cough up legal fees – and prevent further demonstrations.

As it turned out, the law firm of Morrison and Foerster – widely known for its pro-bono work – represented the Abalone Alliance and got the case thrown out of court. And lawsuits like that led to the adoption of the California SLAPP suit statute – a law that says, in essence, that you can’t sue someone to try to shut down his or her right to free speech.

Now we’ve got an interesting twist on the issue: BART has discussed going after Black Lives Matter protesters and hitting them up for $70,000 in costs related to a protest that shut down the train system for a few hours.

It raises an important question: Should a government agency ever seek to deter protests by demanding that activists pay stiff financial penalties related to the impacts of their actions?

Now: I just spoke to the vice-president of the BART Board, Tom Radulovich, and he told me that the agency is unlikely to actually pursue monetary damages. “Asking for financial restitution is inappropriate,” he told me. “It’s my understanding that the general manager agrees.”

The general manager, Grace Crunican, has been a little more vague. Her press office referred me to this statement, which only says:

Recently, the BART Police Chief and I have been in conversation with Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley about the pending criminal charges against the 14 protesters. We discussed my interest in community service as an element of restitution and the possibility of Restorative Justice Programs being factored into the legal proceedings.

This is a little different from the Abalone Alliance case — BART isn’t suing the protesters. The agency is using a state law that allows people who are the victims of crimes to force the perpetrators, as part of a criminal case, to pay “restitution.” It’s an unusual twist — but the issue is the same.

There can’t be any talk of restitution until after the criminal cases, which are moving slowly, are completed. While some BART Board members have tried to put the whole thing on O’Malley’s plate, the reality is that no district attorney in the Bay Area is going to push for restitution in a criminal case like this unless the agency involved – BART – asks for it.

So the question on the table – should the protesters have to pay the costs of what BART claims were damages from the demo – is really a policy matter for the BART Board.

I don’t think there’s a remote chance that BART will ever get a penny from the demonstrators. But that’s not the point.

When Rosa Parks and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, among others, organized the Montgomery bus boycott, the city and some business owners tried to claim that the action had financial impacts – lower fare receipts and lower revenue for businesses – and tried to force the organizers to pay. Peter Scheer, director of the California First Amendment Coalition, told me the case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled that there’s nothing illegal about refusing to ride a bus or shop at a business, and that organizing a boycott is a form of free speech.

In other words: You can’t make the people who (nearly) shut down the Montgomery bus system and caused damage to some business pay those costs. There’s a right to protest racism.

Here, Scheer told me, it’s a little more complicated. The BART demonstrators allegedly violated the law (although there was a law in Alabama against boycotts, too, but it was thrown out by the courts). If they’d spray painted graffiti on a station wall, they could be forced to pay the cost of cleaning it up – even if the message was protected speech, Scheer said.

I’m not a lawyer, but at a certain point, we’re talking angels dancing on a pin. The real issue is simple:

If a public agency – BART – can try to stick demonstrators with a huge, radical, unpayable tab for a civil disobedience act, won’t that have an impact on free speech in the future?

I’m assuming, for the moment here, that you can equate civil disobedience – which typically involved breaking the law – with free speech. I think I’m in good company there; civil disobedience has a long and noble history in this country. And it’s one thing to charge someone with a (minor) crime for blocking a sidewalk or a nuclear power plant or a weapons lab or a non-union hotel or a BART station; it’s another thing entirely to try to collect a paralyzing sum of money.

I’ve been arrested plenty of times at sit-ins and blockades, and done some (modest) stints in county jail. So have a lot of my readers. Risking arrest for something you care about is a big part of the progressive movement.

But you thought the price of a protest was $70,000, would you think again? Of course you would. That’s what makes me so nervous.

Alicia Garza, who helped organize the Black Lives Matter actions, told me that people who have been involved in protest actions, some of them involving property destruction, all over the East Bay of late have escaped with no charges – and certainly no massive restitution claims.

“But we have a Black instigated and implemented action about Black Lives Matter and they want to throw the book at us.”

Garza is pretty clear: “They aren’t going to get a dime from us.” And I think she’s right.

But I also think there’s something really alarming going on here when BART even starts talking about collecting “restitution.”

The $70,000 figure is pretty random; that, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost told me, is the “estimate for fares lost during the time the system was down.” Whatever. As I said, the 14 people arrested during the action probably aren’t going to end up paying it. (Instead, BART might consider “restorative justice” – like cleaning up graffiti – and I can’t quite figure out what that might be.)

But either way, the threat is enough to potentially deter future protests. And is that really how BART wants to operate?

There’s a protest Friday, Jan. 16th at 7am at the Montgomery BART station.I don’t know why the organizers are asking people to bring metal spoons.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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76 COMMENTS

  1. The suggested parallel between BART’s proceeding and the Montgomery bus boycott doesn’t really hold up. King was convicted of violating the anti-boycott law, had his appeal denied, and wound up paying the fine the court levied (reportedly $500 plus $500 in court costs — a substantial sum in the mid-1950s). The case never went to the Supreme Court (though in a separate case the high court did affirm a lower court ruling that struck down the law mandating segregation on Montgomery’s buses).

    Details of that case here: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_state_of_alabama_v_m_l_king_jr_1956_and_1960/

  2. Are you seriously suggesting that there is zero danger to people trying to obstruct trains? Or to passengers who might have a medical emergency while their train is stuck in a tunnel?

  3. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and delayed the bus line.

    The white supremacists of the day probably caterwauled about these delays to honest law abiding white citizens just as today’s white supremacists whine about interrupted brunches and transit.

  4. Shouting fire in a crowded theater can be criminalized because it causes people to stampede out for safety and in so doing creates a deadly situation. There was no stampede instigating conduct on BART.

  5. A major strategic error the left have made is in thinking that a mere expression of an opinion is no longer adequate for a protest. Perhaps taking their cue from terror organizations, they now appear to believe that a tiny number of them can somehow blackmail us all into capitulating to their ever wilder goals.

    Will never work. They got away with it in West Oakland because OPD is politically neutralized. But SFPD doesn’t have a federal judge overseeing their every move and wills tamp down on this.

  6. Oh Samster, you’re so easy to rile up! Look! Over here! I do so enjoy making you waste your time chasing me, instead of cluttering up this site with your predictable knee-jerk reactions to…..EVERYTHING. I also find the assumptions and personal attacks you make fascinating, from a mental health perspective. We’re all still waiting for you to make a positive suggestion about…..ANYTHING. Or maybe not…..

  7. The cops will probably bring bolt cutters tomorrow. They may have been taken by surprise the first time. The cops will also have infiltrators who can give advance notice to the cops of the strategies.

    I expect the station to be cleared within half an hour or so, and 850 Bryant should expect a large crowd for their holding cells. There’s only one toilet in them and it has no walls. That should sober these guys up real quick.

    Release them on Tuesday.

  8. Joseph, I’m sure that believing the fantasy of the revolution being imminent helps you dead with your relative failure in economic terms, so I will allow you your indulgence even though there is no basis for your belief.

  9. Greg, faulty logic, as usual.

    Just because one set of protests by a minority decades ago may eventually have prevailed does not imply that every protest by a minority is justified.

    The vast majority of protests lead to no change and no new law. They just fizzle out with no change, like Occupy.

    You cannot extrapolate from the odd exception to that rule to somehow argue that any and every protest is justified.

  10. No, it doesn’t make all protests illegal. But people are BART are not the people that should be inconvenienced – they’re just working stiffs. Have a protest fine. Destroy property? No. Hold up people that are on their way home to take their meds, feed their sick children, take care of their families, take care of their elderly relatives, pick up their children? That’s more than just an “inconvenience” that can be life threatening. What about the poor person who is standing up for 3 hours in the middle of the train and has plantar fasciitis or some other issue with their feet? Or the diabetics on the train that can’t go for 3 hours as it might cause a serious medical issue? As a later article is showing written by Tim, the progressive left’s days are numbered in SF. Doing things like this is upsetting people that would support the left only now, they’re going away from the left towards Moderate Dem.

  11. “Another major difference is that the 1960’s civil rights movement had widespread support. These trouble-makers are a very small but fanatical minority.”

    Actually it did not. The majority thought of them as a small but fanatical minority of troublemakers. One day these modern day “troublemakers” will have the same widespread support that the civil rights movement has now. Perhaps the right-wing trolls of the future will even invoke their protests as something they could support, so that they appear reasonable.

  12. Your class is indeed fat and lazy; but not happy, which is why alcoholism and domestic violence are commonplace in those McMansions. Ever hear of Nick Hanauer? He’s richer than you, and he says the pitchforks are coming: http://sco.lt/7pLzoP

    “Uneasy lies the head upon which rests the crown,” or vice versa.

  13. Hell Yes! They should pay, more than that amount, because they held thousands of innocent BART passengers prisoner for three hours. They also risked causing potentially fatal medical problems from being confined while standing in a crowded subway car. Even worse they did that during commute hours when giving up and not traveling is not an option for working people.

    What they did was not civil disobedience or even a form of free expression, it was an act of violence akin to kidnapping of people that were not complicit in any police shootings and such actions creates nothing but hostility towards their cause. If the people they targeted for imprisonment were police policy makers it would be a bit more understandable, but these were randomly selected victims.

    I challenge anyone to find a victim of this type of act who became sympathetic to their cause as a result.
    After recouping expenses, BART should use some of the money to provide free fares to passengers traveling at that same time of day.

    I do have to wonder why BART couldn’t just use bolt cutters to remove the offenders quickly.

  14. Joseph, this nation is so fat, lazy and happy that a revolution is unthinkable. There isn’t the slightest shred of evidence that will happen, and certainly not a few dozen of the “usual suspect” agitators trying to be “disruptive”.

    There are few things I worry about less than you rising up and seizing my wealth from your Tenderloin SRO room. You can’t touch me.

  15. EVERYTHING changes, “Sam.”
    It’s the Nature of the Universe.
    ALL empires collapse, as this one is so obviously doing.
    In fact, “Sam,” it’s happening all over the world.

    But you’ll have to take off your s—- stained glasses to see it…..

  16. BART closes down all the time for a myriad of reasons, as do Muni lines. If the system is down placing the blame doesn’t help you get where you need to go.
    The public transit system is that it is not always reliable and we need options when it doesn’t function. If you wake up in the morning and the newscaster tells you that BART is down it doesn’t matter why. You need an option and for many people that option is a car.

  17. Sam, I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Actually witnessed a black male job candidate discriminated against behind the scenes at two different large companies in S.F. — Of course there was no way for the black male candidate to discover the reason he was not hired. — I’ve never hung out around personnel, so what are the chances of me being “lucky” enough to have heard & seen this on two separate occasions? — Also joined a study group with a couple of black women when taking a class called the “The Economics of Poverty & Discrimination” who told me plenty of stories re: job discrimination against black men. — Hey, it’s not a statistical study. — It’s simply what I’ve come across & heard. Unfortunately, I believe that it is still true today: major job discrimination against black men.

  18. Ah yes, the revolution is just around the corner. Where have I heard that before?

    If I hated my country as much as you clearly do, I’d leave. It’s easier to relocate than to change America.

  19. Ha ha ha, you so funny!

    “We” are the terrorists.
    “We” are being hauled before international courts.
    “We” have lost the propaganda and trade wars with Russia and China.
    “We” have lost the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, South America,
    Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, and the covert war
    on Iran.
    “We” have the highest incarceration and infant mortality rates of any industrialized nation.
    “We” have the highest rates of domestic violence, gun violence, police violence, and alcoholism in the industrialized world.

    And so “we” will continue to protest, and eventually “we” will take direct action.
    Sooner than later…..

  20. Oh I am sure you will have your little public hissy fit. It won’t affect me either way as I work where and when I want to.

    But you will not succeed in imposing your petty ideas on the majority by behaving badly. The best you can hope for is to stay out of jail. We never give in to terrorism.

  21. Sam, Just because there are laws against job discrimination doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen and isn’t a problem on our country. — How does a black man know that he wasn’t hired because he was black? — Kind of hard to prove. Yet it most certainly does happen.

  22. And what was his role? He was interviewed by Federal Agents under threat of perjury and they apparently couldn’t connect him to the scandal.

    If it could be proven then his political career is probably over. You can’t just assume that he had a role and that you know more than the FBI agents who investigated the case.

  23. Whaaa…..?

    SpamBot, you must get a life.
    Seriously…..

    The protests will continue with or without your approval, starting Friday, continuing thru Monday.
    If you want to show that we can’t take away your freedom to ride BART or MUNI, be my guest.

    Hope to see you there. I’ll recognize you by the purse…..

  24. The difference is that you have to prove that race is a factorhere. We don’t have to prove that it is not.

    There are already laws against job discrimination based on race, so I’m not aware of any issue there.

    Why instead aren’t you holding blacks in any way responsible for the trouble that they often bring down on themselves? Even within the black community, some more perceptive folks now recognize that they cannot dine out forever on blaming whitey for everything.

    There is almost nobody alive today who remembers segregation as an adult, nor anyone who had a grandparent who was a slave. Time to look elsewhere for the problem, perhaps?

  25. Sam, Apparently Eric Holder & the DOJ are having difficulty making the case for “race as a factor” here as well. However, that doesn’t prove that race isn’t a factor in both the Ferguson and Staten Island cases.

    Regardless, black men are definitely discriminated against in the job market in this country.

  26. Should Chris Christie be fined for his role in the George Washington Bridge scandal? Or should he try running for POTUS instead? Hmmmm. There seems to be a double standard in play. Or when it comes to our elected politicians, no standard at all.

  27. There is no nexus between BART, the riders effected by the delay, and the justice called for in the police shooting cases. Perhaps, if they chained themselves to Ferguson or NYC police vehicles you could use your argument.

  28. You haven’t demonstrated that race was a factor here. The two cases you cited did involve a black suspect but I’ve seen no evidence that a white suspect would have been handled differently. It’s hard to imagine how white someone would have to be to assault a cop and try and take his gun, and not meet a similar fate.

    The Brown case looks like a totally legitimate shoot to me, and to a significant majority of Americans according to a poll.

    The Garner case is a little more contentious and I can see that excess force might have been a factor there. Then again he did not die of suffocation at the scene, but of a heart failure hours later, so you’d have to prove a connection between the two..

    If blacks find themselves under undue scrutiny from the cops it is because their rate of commission of serious crimes is greater. Put simply, blacks get hurt more by cops because they cause more trouble for the cops.

    In any event, these protesters need to figure out exactly what they are asking for, rather than just generically whining. We can then consider their requests on their merits. So far, I’m not convinced, and these protests deter the very sympathy they appear to want to get.

  29. They should have just blocked a few Google buses, because that’s totally acceptable and ok way to media grab.

  30. Why would I ever want or need to go to a SRO in the Tenderloin?

    Your pre-disposition towards criminality is again nted, however.

  31. Actually Tim had the good sense to duck his instincts on the Paris issue, unlike a couple of the commentators here.

    But no, it wasn’t a threat. It was an invitation for you to think about what it feels like to be on the other side of some “direct action”.

    Anyway, you’re in the TL which probably means you live in a SRO. Nobody is going to bother harassing you there.

  32. Sam, Currently, I do see the Ferguson issue as a race issue.

    Concurrently, I don’t believe that the testimony presented to the Grand Jury in Ferguson was complete or entirely true.

    There has been talk of perjury at the Ferguson Grand Jury hearing re: Michael Brown. There has been talk of misconduct on the part of Ferguson, Missouri’s District Attorney and calls for an investigation of the D.A. wrt his conduct at this Grand Jury proceeding.

    At this juncture, I don’t feel that the evidence clearly shows that police officer, D. Wilson, had no choice but to kill Michael Brown.

    Currently, I don’t believe that the police officer, D. Wilson, handled the Michael Brown situation appropriately.

    Currently, I think that the police officer, D. Wilson, should have been charged and brought to trial.

    Perhaps the Staten Island case is more clear cut. There is a video showing a black man being choked to death for allegedly selling single cigarettes. Strong evidence for a trial is present, yet no prosecution of the police officers involved will be taking place? — Seems like a race issue to me.

    The prisons in this country already have a disproportionately black male population. NYC’s unsuccessful “stop & frisk” law, targeted a disproportionate number of black males. Across the country, black men are stopped by the police simply because they’re black 24/7.

    The Civil Rights work initiated back in the 1950s and 1960s is far from finished from my perspective. These issues are much larger than simply playing the race card.

  33. B. Brown, you make a good point in that we don’t want to create martyrs. But nor should that mean that we simply let off people who commit crimes.

    I submit that disrupting BART trains is a potentially deadly activity, and could probably be handled via our terrorism laws. Certainly if they tried this stunt at SFO they’d be going to federal prison for a long time.

    I don’t think this cliche of lives “mattering” is at all helpful. All lives matter in a very real sense, including those who just want to get to and from work. It’s not even a demand – just a cliche.

    As far as I can see, this movement wants to inhibit the ability of the police to use force even when an incident clearly calls for it, as when Matthew Brown assaulted a police officer and tried to seize his firearm.

    A white person who did the same thing would have been shot, as would 99% of people who were stupid enough to try that. Trying to make that a race issue is disingenuous. But sadly a couple of decades of ramming political correctness down the throats of everyone in our schools system had led to a generation of advocates who think they only have to play a race card to win a debate.

    And if you they have to advocate for a group, why make it criminals? They are the least sympathetic group in America after terrorists.

  34. In response to Sam’s suggestion of “felony time in the big house” instead of fines for those protesting the Ferguson decision by shutting down BART for 3 hours would once again send a clear message that black lives really DON’T matter.

    And Sam, I do not believe that you believe that black lives don’t matter. And it is not my intention to infer that in any way here.

    I simply believe that your proposal of “felony time in the big house” would have tremendously negative results.

  35. Hey, how about I come to your house and break your windows because of some cause you don’t give a crap about?

    Presumably you would find that very persuasive? And you’d respect the commitment I have to my cause, whatever it is?

    We have a deal. I’ll start googling you so I know where to go.

  36. Another major difference is that the 1960’s civil rights movement had widespread support. These trouble-makers are a very small but fanatical minority.

    In fact, the less people support their cause, the more fanatical and extreme they feel they have to be. This is a near universal rule. If you are with the majority, then democracy works just fine – elections give you what you want.

    But the more you are at variance with the majority, the more desperate and extreme you have to become in order to feel you are gaining any traction at all.

    Look at the 1.5 million who marched in Paris this past week-end. Peaceful and respectful, their message was immense. Contrast that with the few dozen in SF who try and vandalize, loot, riot and harm innocent parties.

    Extremists have two characteristics that the followers of King did not exhibit. First they are obsessively convinced that only they are right, and that anyone who disagrees with them, or is even neutral on the topic, are the devil. And second, having demonized the majority in that way, they feel justified in any and every action that projects harm and distress to them.

    The most extreme example of those things are of course terrorists. And in fact if these SF protesters tried this stunt at SFO, they would be facing terrorism charges. 70K is a deal.

  37. So if I block the entrance to your home and prevent you from leaving or returning just because I happen to care about something that you do not care about, or care less about, would you be perfectly OK with that?

    Would you be a “crabby old lady” if you complained that you were being inconvenienced?

  38. I’m just thinking about the people on the train who work hard, many of them are STANDING in the middle not able to sit, and there’s latch-key children waiting for their dinners, there’s people who need to pick up children from daycare, there’s a lot of people just barely making it on that train, people who need their life-saving medication, people who have to go to the bathroom, people who have hypoglycemia and diabetes & need sustenance…these protestors only think about THEMSELVES. Throw the book at them & yes fine them!

  39. Protesting is fine. Vandalizing is NOT. Having said that, Shutting down a commuter system when working people – no matter what size, shape or color – need to get to work or get home is shitty. I sympathize/empathize with most issues but I do get pissy when I’ve worked a 9 hour day to pay my bills and have an hour ride home and can’t get there due to BART issues. That’s bad enough. When others don’t respect me or my life, it really gets me pissy. And I agree that BART police are pretty useless in most cases; being reactive instead of proactive. I don’t believe a commuter train should be the target because this affects the working people. I doubt Crunican gives two shits about us. Target her offices instead.

  40. I don’t think that clogging Bart doors anonymously is going to force the public to take a different viewpoint regarding your cause.

    The genius of Dr King and the others is that they created events that clearly exposed injustice to the greater public. They didn’t just do what was easiest.

    BTW, what IS your cause????

  41. They protest BART not because it is appropriate or relevant, but because they think they can get away with it. And so far the police have been very tolerant and patient. I suspect the time is approaching when that benign treatment will have to be abandoned.

    A protest on an irrelevant target that has little public support is doomed any way you look at it. And in fact the protests have already tailed off, just like the Google bus protests, Occupy, etc etc

    A movement without a critical mass is just an irritant. These protesters are rank amateurs.

  42. So in your mind the war of independence is exactly like a fuzzy minority movement demanding that the police never use force when confronted with a criminal?

  43. Good points, and in fact these protesters don’t even appear to have any specific demands. Just a couple of half-assed cliches.

    They will fail in much the same way as Occupy failed – no leadership, no focus, no realistic goals.

    The idea that all protests are justified and right just because historically the odd one worked is just plain wrong. In fact, most protests fail to achieve any goal. And rightly so, because direct action is inherently undemocratic, typically involving a minority seeking to impose their will on the majority.

    In fact, I’d argue that protests only work when a majority support the cause anyway, which clearly is not the case here.

  44. Tim has a double standard here. He no doubt wants to stop abortion clinics from being closed down but is happy for transit to be closed down. The only difference, of course, is that he supports the latter cause but not the former cause.

    The irony is that at least a protest at an abortion clinic is attacking a relevant target. Shutting down transit because the cops killed someone three thousand miles away totally misses the mark.

  45. @SonofSam – neither of those things happened, sorry. You might want to read some history on Dr. King and the other civil rights leaders of the 1960s.

    Those leaders designed carefully measured and targeted protests with well articulated and pragmatic goals. No, they didn’t shut down the Montgomery bus system, they boycotted it. And they won.

    Nor did they shut down the lunch counters. They just refused to leave when asked.

    Both the bus system and the lunch counters were well selected targets because of their blatant injustice. You can’t make the same argument about Bart, the Oscar Grant tragedy notwithstanding. The bus drivers during the Rosa Parks era didn’t go to jail for their actions.

    After you read up a bit about Dr. King you’ll stop insulting his legacy and realize that he would never have supported a poorly targeted effort to arbitrarily shut down Bart because it was an easy to do. And he would never participate without making his objectives clear.

  46. For a country and planet that desperately needs to break its oil addiction, at some point, it must cross your mind, “undermining trust and viability in public transit in a region that is trying to lead in this area for something that happened in Missouri… no, that’s too far”. There are injustices in the world going on every day, why should BART be allowed to run ever while these go on.

    It’s the viewpoint first off, of someone who hasn’t had to rely on public transit in a day to day basis for a long time, and probably surrounds himself with people who don’t rely on public transit every day.

    This is why progressives are on a downward spiral, their adherence to out-of-touch, past-its-prime, stuck-in-Selma-1965 way of looking at the world.

  47. I don’t think fines are effective because, as noted, they cannot be collected from deadbeats.

    Some hefty prison time would work, however. Not just a night or two in central lock-up, but felony time in the big house. Messing with public transit is dangerous and wrong. We need to beef up the criminal code if it isnt doing the job.

    People can protest without harming others, and in this case the people being harmed are not the people responsible for the alleged injustices. Indeed, it is the poorer segments of society who typically use public transit.

  48. It is entirely possible to protest without harming others. The problem here is that these protesters do not merely wish to express themsleves. They wish to blackmail us into accepting their political viewpoint. And that is unacceptable.

  49. Do you have a problem with shutting down an abortion clinic. Stopping gay marriages from taking places?

    Where does that slippery slope end? With shooting cartoonists?

  50. One tactic that authoritarian regimes use to defuse protest is to reduce the substance of an issue down to a free speech issue. This is happening in Paris as well as with BART.

    The issue of #blacklivesmatter gets ignored and is now digestible by the system as a free speech challenge.

    This has happened since the 1960s and is a tried and true method of coopting resistance.

    One adaptation by the protesters would be to anonymize protest as the hacker group anonymous has. Instead of a few individuals putting themselves on the line to shut down BART, more individuals could agree to slow BART down by other decentralized means, such as increasing the dwell times of trains at stations by clogging the doors with meaningless in and out foot traffic, boadrings, deboardings, lather rinse repeat until the train is delayed. No t-shirts, no slogans, no people being seen sacrificing, just consequential action for which a group can claim responsibility and assign their own political semantics after the fact.

  51. Nonse, you can protest without shutting things down. The law has been used to absolutely make that distinction for protests at abortion clinics.

  52. We need to exhume the bodies of the original Boston “Tea Party” protesters and put them on trial.

    Of maybe we need to recognize that every protest hurts someone but it is usually for the greater good.

  53. You have a problem with people shutting down a BART train for three hours? Do you have a problem with Martin Luther King and black protestors and Northern civil rights workers shutting down segregated bus systems? Segregated lunch counters?

  54. “Risking arrest for something you care about is a big part of the progressive movement.

    But you thought the price of a protest was $70,000, would you think again? Of course you would. That’s what makes me so nervous.”

    Wait … why is the threat of debt somehow worse? If you feel that civil disobedience requires acceptance of penalty, why is financial penalty different than the criminal penalty you’ve already professed to willingly accept here?

  55. You’ll notice that Tim doesn’t say what the protesters actually did to incur the $70,000 in damages. In fairness to him he had to leave it out because it doesn’t fit with the “free speech” story that he is trying to tell.

    The protesters chained themselves to Bart trains in both directions at the West Oakland station and shut down the transbay service for 3 hours. Which is akin to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.

    Again, no way that Tim could have mentioned that and still make it sound like a harmless free speech protest, but it is at the basis of the controversy. The protesters didn’t just picket or march or hold up signs or slow down service, they shut it down completely for 3 hours.

    So when Tim talks about the restitution charges ‘deterring future protests’ he can’t be taken seriously. Nobody is saying that you can’t protest, the issue is whether or not you can unilaterally deny a public transport service to the public for 3 hours of your choosing. Which causes are allowed to shut down Bart?

    In Tim’s world a Google bus using a Muni stop is a significant affront to public transport, but shutting down Bart for 3 hours isn’t even worth mentioning. It’s all about who is involved.

    But this part is just plain funny:

    “should the protesters have to pay the costs of what BART claims were damages”

    Claims???? They shut down the system for 3 hours. Hundreds of thousands of people were stranded. Claims????????

    Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

  56. No, a public agency should not force protestors to pay the costs of a demonstration because of the civil rights issues at stake here which impact our entire nation on a daily basis.

  57. Mall of America, that is… not to be confused with the terrorist training camp the US government runs in Ft. Benning Georgia, which has a similarly sounding name.

  58. They’re using the same tactics against the protesters who shut down the Mall of the Americas for a short while. If these 21st Century SLAPP suits are allowed to stand, it essentially makes all protests illegal. Nearly all protests impact some business somewhere. The 1st Amendment will be rendered meaningless.

  59. Per a polling that was done re should the mentioned protesters be made to pay, the response was an overwhelming yes.
    These protesters do not have public support, in fact the opposite.

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