As I write this post, BART is finally opening its downtown stations, after shutting them down in an effort to curb protests against police violence. What has been referred to in the media as "civil unrest" is yielding broad coverage, not least because of BART's decision to cut down cellular phone service within its premises. Now that's what some would call grounds for "civil unrest".
But back to the topic of protest. So, the stations have been shut down, and it is rush hour. The Chronicle reports:
BART police closed the Civic Center station after at least one protester blocked a door of a Dublin-Pleasanton train for two minutes as others chanted "No justice, no peace." The train continued east, and a dispersal order was soon issued.
"Once we got to a situation where the BART platform was unsafe, we cleared the station," said BART Deputy Police Chief Daniel Hartwig, referring to the first closure. "We cannot jeopardize the safety of the patrons or the employees here."
Some transit riders were infuriated. Jennifer Cohn, an attorney who works downtown, arrived at the Civic Center station at about 6 p.m. with her two sons, ages 3 and 4, after picking them up from day care. She was trying to get home to the Glen Park neighborhood.
With the station closed, she tried to catch a cab, but they seemed to be avoiding the area.
"This is an outrage. We just want to get home," Cohn said. "I don't really see why they should be shutting down the stations. If they have an issue with BART, they should go to BART headquarters."
No, Ms. Cohn; what's outrageous is that the police shoot innocent people. This "issue" is a prime example of people standing up to police abuse. And there are good reasons for all rush hour commuters to join them, rather than complain. We posted here before about the scathing review of BART police practices in the aftermath of Oscar Grant's tragic death.
Now, why would Ms. Cohn and other riders be indifferent to this important issue? Could they possibly think that the abuses of force, unfettered discretion, and lack of professionalism at BART are good things? In all likelihood, they have not been paying much attention to the news. Or maybe, like Costelloe, Chiricos and Gertz's survey subjects, they think that, at the receiving end of police abuse, are only people who deserve such abuse. Thuggish people. Scary people. Gang-y people. People who don't look or behave like them.
Because, as we all know, if you don't finish the vegetables off your plate, a cop will come get you. But if you do, no harm will befall you.
I heartily wish to all those perturbed rush-hour BART passengers, that they will never be shot in the back when handcuffed by an officer who was, assuming the best of scenarios, untrained in distinguishing between his gun and his taser (gentle reader, you can assume other scenarios if you prefer.) And that, if by any chance or bad luck, they are ever mistaken by an overzealous cop with poor vision for one of those "other" "bad" people, that others will be willing to stand up for them and raise their voice in protest. Even if it means that a few good, law-abiding citizens get home for dinner fifteen minutes late.
Many thanks to Kathryn Nettles and Tom Oster for the conversation that inspired this post.