Recent protests have cost BART at least $300,000, and with another event planned for today, the agency’s board president said fines should be increased for activists who disrupt transit service to discourage such action.
Since July 3, when BART police officers shot and killed 45-year-old transient Charles Hill at the Civic Center station, the transit agency has been besieged by protest events. The protests increased after Aug. 11
when BART shut down cellphone service in its downtown stations to prevent a planned demonstration.
BART has spent $300,000 to deal with four protests, with most of the expenses related to overtime pay for police officers, according to agency spokeswoman Luna Salaver. That tab is just a preliminary estimate and is likely to grow, she said.
BART board of directors President Bob Franklin said the agency should pursue changes to state law to make fines related to protest arrests heftier. Franklin didn’t specify how much the fines should go up, but said it should be enough to make activists think differently before they storm BART stations.
On Aug. 22, police arrested 35 protesters, mostly on charges of failure to obey a peace officer and for pedestrians illegally being in the right-of-way. Those charges carry fines of $200 and $114 respectively for first-time offenders, according to San Francisco Superior Court.
“Right now, it’s just a minor infraction that can be absorbed,” said Franklin. “We need a bigger deterrent to make sure these protests don’t regularly affect the lives of our normal commuters.”
Today, the group No Justice, No BART is planning to block fare gates at the Powell Street station during the evening commute, a strategy aimed at making the agency open its emergency exits for free passage for riders.
Franklin said that would actually have a negative effect on the public.
“BART is not a for-profit entity,” said Franklin. “This would only hurt the riding public that funds the agency.”
No Justice, No BART has said it will continue protests until the transit agency disbands its police force.
The protests also have hurt Muni, which has spent $70,000 to deal with the events despite having no connection to the July 3 shooting, because the two agencies share downtown stations.
A BART official wants fines for protest-related arrests increased to discourage such action, which has become costly for the agency.
$200 Citation for failure to obey peace officer
$114 Citation for pedestrian illegally being in right-of-way
$300,000 BART’s protest-related costs so far
$619 million BART’s total budget
Sources: BART, San Francisco Superior Court