BART riders weary of protests 

BART passengers fume at the thought of further service disruptions as they contemplate the protest scheduled for Monday’s commute. But many also concede the transit agency has few other options.

Many riders share activists’ anger about officer-involved shootings and BART’s response to them, but many also are fed up with protesters’ tactics.

Demonstrations began in earnest July 11, when activists stormed downtown stations to denounce the July 3 BART police shooting of Charles Hill. Since Aug. 11, when BART shut down its cellphone service to thwart one such demonstration, the protests have become weekly occurrences.

Marcus Scott, a daily commuter who travels into The City from San Leandro, believes BART’s decision to inconvenience thousands of commuters by shutting down stations in response to the protests only exacerbates the situation.

“That is a penalty to the commuter,” Scott said. “We didn’t cause this problem, but we’re the ones feeling the effects.”

Last month, after protesters stormed the boarding areas of downtown stations and one vaulted atop a train, BART began shutting down stations in response to protests. On Monday, BART shut down all four downtown stations, with the disruptions lasting from about 5:20 p.m. until around 8 p.m.

Scott said it’s only a matter of time before frustrated commuters begin taking out their anger upon protesters — possibly physically.

“I think one of these passengers is going to get funky on those protesters,” said Scott. “It’s not going to be pretty.”

Yet Scott said he didn’t know how BART could prevent protesters from amassing in boarding zones — particularly if the gatherings start off discreetly.

Daly City resident Michael Vail, who takes BART daily to San Francisco, believes the protesters are out of line for delaying the commute for regular passengers.

“This is really unfair for us,” Vail said. “I haven’t experienced a major delay yet because of the protest, but I think it’s only a matter of time, and I’m not looking forward to that.”

However, not all passengers are angry with the delays. Stanton Chew, who takes BART from Millbrae, said passenger safety is more important than being on time. If the railway has to shut down stations to keep commuters from being injured, it’s a good call, Chew said.

San Francisco resident Stephen Roberts said BART is in a bind.

“They’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t,” Roberts said. “The protesters have a lot of legit grievances, particularly since BART has handled the situation so poorly. But at the same time, they’re a transit agency with a main objective of transporting people.”

Self-proclaimed members of Anonymous, the loose collective of online activists angry with BART’s cellphone shut-off, have posted comments online calling for a new protest Monday at 5 p.m. at BART’s Civic Center Station.

Spokesman Linton Johnson declined to say how BART plans to respond to the protest. He did say the agency intends to transport people from point A to point B as safely and quickly as possible.

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Will Reisman

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