Protesters plan to confront BART board over Black Friday 14 restitution 

click to enlarge Members of the Black Lives Matter movement are going to confront BART's Board of Directors on Thursday about the Black Friday 14. - AP PHOTO/NOAH BERGER
  • AP Photo/Noah Berger
  • Members of the Black Lives Matter movement are going to confront BART's Board of Directors on Thursday about the Black Friday 14.

The controversy over the price tag for free speech on BART property may soon come to a head.

At issue is the $70,000 in restitution pay charged to the protesters known as the Black Friday 14. Members of the Black Lives Matter movement say they will confront BART board members at their regular meeting Thursday and ask them to urge authorities to drop charges against the protesters.

On Nov. 28, demonstrators chained themselves to a train at the West Oakland BART station, halting transit service for hours to protest the lack of an indictment for Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last summer. The group became known as the Black Friday 14 because they held the demonstration on the day after Thanksgiving, which is the annual shopping bonanza known as Black Friday.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley holds the authority to follow through with $70,000 in restitution, a number suggested by BART officials. Following media pressure, BART General Manager Grace Crunican later called for the restitution to be made in the form of community service.

There has been no new announcement of a change in charges against the Black Friday 14.

The San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters, a local branch of the national advocacy group, drafted a resolution it wants BART directors to adopt. It would formally call for O'Malley to withdraw the criminal complaint against the protesters on behalf of the BART board.

"BART directors have not weighed in on this issue," the League wrote to The San Francisco Examiner. "Their silence, some would say, is deafening."

Whether the demands will be met appears to be a long shot.

At a recent late-night bus protest, BART Directors Rebecca Saltzman and Nick Josefowitz both said they would support the resolution but not adopt it themselves.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has made it clear that it did not assign the restitution amount, meaning BART could still change its mind.

Meanwhile, the National Lawyers Guild, which is representing the Black Friday 14, condemned both O'Malley and BART for pursuing the charges.

"It is rather shameful that the [District Attorney's Office] has selectively chosen to go after these black members of the Oakland community for engaging in a clearly righteous civil disobedience to bring attention to the epidemic of police and vigilante killings of black people in the U.S.," said lead attorney Walter Riley in a statement. "I am particularly disturbed that BART would pursue charges and restitution, considering it has blood on its hands for some of the very killings that these Black Lives Matter demonstrators have brought mass attention to."

Alicia Garza, one of the lead organizers of the Black Friday 14, has said the attention paid to the case has been positive.

"In essence, the more that BART and other public institutions attempt to criminalize protest ... the more the movement grows in support and in defense of black lives," she said.

The Black Friday 14 are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 4.

Read the open letter from the League of Pissed Off Voters to the BART Board of Directors, below:

The SF League of Pissed Off Voters Open Letter to BART Board of Directors

The League of Pissed-Off Voters urges BART Directors, BART General Manager, and the Alameda County District Attorney to be on the right side of history - join community organizations, transit advocates, social justice leaders, and thousands of multiracial allies fighting for Black lives.

On November 28, 2014, fourteen protesters locked themselves to BART trains at the West Oakland station. Instead of citing and releasing protesters, or charging them with the same minor infraction applied to the thousands of multiracial allies that have blocked buses, trains, and traffic, a harsher penalty has been discriminatively applied.

Transit advocates, including a member of the League's Steering Committee, joined BART Directors Rebecca Saltzman and Nick Josefowitz as they rode BART's new late night bus to shine a light on this issue and request support for a potential resolution calling for the demand for restitution and criminal charges be dropped against the group of protesters known as the BlackFriday14.

The League believes that the BlackFriday14 have paid significant restitution for their protest. They were held in the Santa Rita Jail and Glenn Dyer Detention facility, and they have expended significant time and resources in their legal proceedings. We call on the BART Board of Directors to pass the following resolution to urge District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley to drop the charges against the BlackFriday14.

The League of Pissed Off Voters offers the following draft language and urges Directors to introduce this resolution at the January 22, 2015 meeting of the BART Board of Directors.

WHEREAS, On November 28, 2014 (the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday), fourteen protesters locked themselves to BART trains at the West Oakland station, causing BART traffic between West Oakland and San Francisco to be halted for two hours; and

WHEREAS, The protest was in response to a call to action from the Black community of Ferguson, Missouri, and was part of the nationwide #BlackLivesMatter effort, that has led to hundreds of thousands of others protesting, often using civil disobedience, against police brutality and racial profiling; and

WHEREAS, The protesters demanded an end to the war on Black communities; and

WHEREAS, The Black Friday protest was nonviolent, nondestructive, and the protesters were respectful of BART police, employees, and passengers; and

WHEREAS, The protesters were arrested by BART Police and charged with misdemeanor trespassing for violating California Penal Code Section 369i(a), and

WHEREAS, Because the protesters were charged with misdemeanors, they were transported to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California and the Glenn Dyer Detention facility in Oakland, California; and

WHEREAS, Had the protesters been charged with infractions, they would have been cited and released at West Oakland station; and

WHEREAS, The Alameda County District Attorney has indicated that if the protesters are found guilty, they would be required to pay up to $70,000 in restitution to BART; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the BART Board of Directors finds that because the protesters were transported to Santa Rita Jail and Glenn Dyer Detention facility, and because their court proceedings have required significant expenditures of time and legal resources, the protesters have been sufficiently punished for their actions; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, The Board of Directors urges Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley to withdraw the criminal complaint pending against the protesters and suspend the request for restitution in response to the November 28 action, and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, The Board of Directors directs General Manager Grace Crunican to transmit a copy of this resolution District Attorney O'Malley.

We thank you for your time and attention to this very important matter.

Sincerely,

The SF League of Pissed Off Voters

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Bio:
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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