By Dave Id
(Reprinted from IndyBay)
BART has repeatedly claimed that they do not allow free speech inside of the fare gates of BART stations —and, indeed, the transit agency arrested numerous demonstrators in August for simply speaking out against their police department’s violence from within BART fare gates. BART’s “free speech zones” are outside of the fare gates, the agency has made plain. And so No Justice No BART and allied groups called for a “Spare the Fare” demonstration in the non-paid area of the Powell Street station. Despite the pledges of BART board members, police, and administrators that BART respects free speech, and despite the fact that protesters were not blocking fare gates but merely chanting and holding signs, BART riot police gave no official dispersal order in the Powell station and surrounded dozens of demonstrators and journalists for arrest. This reporter was specifically targeted by BART police for arrest, by officers well aware of the over two and a half years of critical reporting on BART-related issues which can be primarily found at http://www.indybay.org/oscargrant.
With their ulterior motives unspoken, BART decided to shut down over one half of the Powell Street station before the announced start of the demonstration. This forced a crowd of protesters, media, riot police, and passengers into the relatively small section of the station adjacent to Hallidie Plaza. With SFPD and BART riot police and DHS officers throughout the station, protesters and media largely began to congregate between the ticket machines and Hallidie Plaza as 5pm approached. As the numbers of protesters and media continued to grow while the protest got underway, BART riot police moved in and blocked the fare gates themselves, allowing passengers to pass through behind them at first, and then closing the gates completely. After some chanting and speaking out, a large group of demonstrators and media marched around the ticket machines one time, until they ran into a new line of riot police blocking their path.
Moments later, an officer S. Christ came from behind No Justice No BART organizer Krystof and grabbed his backpack, lifting him off of the ground, and pushing him forward a few feet. As protesters confronted Christ about the unprovoked assault, BART’s riot police moved in closer towards encircling the large group of demonstrators and media assembled.
BART’s riot police then fully closed the circle from all directions and notified those kettled/trapped inside that BART police were “investigating” the entire group of protesters and media for violation of California Penal Code 369i. With this detention of dozens of people within the station, this reporter included, the demonstration was effectively over by 5:30pm. Shortly thereafter, the first official dispersal order was heard over BART’s loudspeakers, that those in Powell Street station should leave or risk arrest. Those encircled were told they were not free to leave. BART pulled the metal gates across entrances and closed the station to the public for the next two hours. Those outside of the kettle were allowed to exit towards Hallidie Plaza or the Westfield shopping center
Detainee and SF Bay Guardian reporter Rebecca Bowe asked for a show of hands to see who amongst those kettled were media. At least a dozen hands went up, if not more. No one in the group had heard any dispersal order prior to being detained, not this reporter, not Rebecca Bowe, and not SF Chronicle reporter Vivian Ho. Some demonstrators protested their detainment, while both media and protesters attempted to get clarification from the BART police officers surrounding them on the justification for the detainment.
This reporter witnessed BART police deputy chief Dan Hartwig assemble a line of riot police behind him, in a straight line away from the detainees just outside of the kettle. As soon as the line was in formation, Hartwig began to march rapidly through the police line encircling detainees, into the crowd, and began calling out, “Him, him, him…” as he pointed at different people within the detained group for immediate arrest. The officer closest behind Hartwig each time would grab the next “him”. This reporter was the first “him,” most likely first because I was right at the edge of the group facing Hartwig’s police line as they approached. I was also likely chosen for arrest by Hartwig due to my over two and a half years of critical coverage of BART issues which can be primarily found at http://www.indybay.org/oscargrant (along with the reporting of numerous others). My arrest can be heard—as the crowd objects to my arrest and that of others at the time— and then briefly seen in Josh Wolf’s video starting at 6:50.
Dan Hartwig knows this reporter quite well after two and a half years, as do many BART administrators and directors of the board. The Friday previous to this demonstration, for instance, BART board president Bob Franklin told me that he reads every report I write on Indybay.org about BART. While covering a mundane and tedious meeting of the new police oversight Citizen Review Board just three days prior to the demonstration (as the CRB debated its bylaws), the new police Auditor Mark Smith’s assistant was seen reading Indybay on her smart phone. I have had regular conversations with at least three members of the BART board over the last few years. BART’s PR team and several administrators know me by name. And I have had regular conversations with Dan Hartwig over the same period. Sometimes it might be humorous banter such as me asking Hartwig if he’s having fun while policing a BART protest. Sometimes it might be a more serious exchange around topics such as BART’s clampdown on free speech inside of BART stations. One time Hartwig told me that a demonstration inside of Embarcadero station on April 8th, 2010, was the best organized protest to date. Be it at any of the dozens of BART protests or any of the even more BART board and subcommittee meetings I have covered, Hartwig and I generally at least acknowledge each other’s presence in an amicable manner. And so it was somewhat shocking that Hartwig would point me out for arrest as he did while I was just standing there with a camera in each hand and my Indybay press pass around my neck.
The arresting BART officer’s name is S. Coduti. Even though I have never met him personally nor do I recall having seen him at board meetings or demonstrations, he clearly knew who I was. After roughly pulling me from the crowd and placing handcuffs too tightly around my wrists, I was escorted to the BART police substation within the Powell Street station. Almost immediately after finding a small office in which to place me, Coduti asked me if I was “Dave Id.” This is obviously the nom de plume I use on Indybay, of which many at BART are well aware, and only those who know my long history of journalism at Indybay would refer to me as such.
Over two hours after I was first placed in handcuffs, BART police stood me up and replaced the metal handcuffs with the plasti-cuffs in which I was to be transported to San Francisco county jail at 850 Bryant. I could not see the officer who was behind me placing the plasti-cuffs on my wrists, but he stood out as being overly confrontational with me after I had been basically sitting under the watchful eye of officer A. Rudi who was nothing but polite to me. The new officer who I could not see at the time gave me vague orders to spread my legs. I did and then he said, “wider.” I did further, and again he said, “wider,” and so it went with every instruction he gave. I asked him to be specific so that the process would be easier for both of us, and he taunted me, something to the effect of that I liked to fight or argue. I tried to look back over my shoulder, but could only see his face, not his name badge. I did not recognize him. After I was told to sit down again, I did get a look at his name when he hovered over me at a later point, before I was transported. He was Emery Knudtson, one of the officers on the Fruitvale BART station platform the morning Oscar Grant was shot in the back by Johannes Mehserle. I believe I can safely presume that Knudtson was aware of who I was as well, hence the unnecessarily confrontational stance he took towards me.
Hartwig stopped by the office in which I was being held twice. We spoke for a few minutes each time. Obviously, I objected to his having specifically pointed me out for arrest, knowing full well who I was, and that there had been no dispersal order. In the first encounter, Hartwig lied and said he had not pointed me out for arrest. He added that BART police did not have to issue a dispersal order. He told me that journalists could be arrested, too, if they broke the law. I responded that he knew I had not broken the law, and that he knew I was covering the demonstration as a journalist. Hartwig told me that other journalists had been arrested as well, although at the time I assumed he was completely lying. Other’s had been handcuffed, but apparently none of them were cited and all were allowed from leave Powell Street station.
I told Hartwig that he was silencing my journalistic voice, that he was denying my right to cover events as they continued to happen. Loud chants of “Let them go! Let them go!” could be heard from those outside of the station. Hartwig responded that I would be free again in a few hours and could continue reporting then. I told him that indeed I would not be deterred by his having illegally arrested me and would not stop covering wrongdoing at BART.
In my second visit from Hartwig while I was still handcuffed in the BART police substation at Powell, Hartig changed his story somewhat about the dispersal order. He claimed that there had been “several announcements” made, without saying exactly what those announcements had been or when they had supposedly been given. This newer claim mirrored what Dan Hartwig and Jim Allison told the media at a press conference BART staged at just about that same time. This reporter only ever heard one announcement, from an officer with a red bullhorn prior to the beginning of the demonstration. He announced that deliberately blocking fare gates was an arrestable offense. Again, though, no protesters blocked the gates or even came close to doing so. Fare gates were only ever blocked by BART’s own police, and it was BART’s decision to close the station for two hours.
As I was lined up with other arrestees who were to be sent to 850 Bryant, I could clearly see that none of the journalists with whom I had been in the kettle were present (aside from one who has posted a few reports to Indybay over the last year). I counted twenty-two arrestees at that point, and presumably there were at least a few more. Most of us were transported to 850 Bryant, eight at a time in SF Sheriff’s vans, and released not long after arriving at a temporary processing area outside of the jail, once we had each been presented with our 369i citations and had our property returned. Only four arrestees were actually taken inside of the jail, three of whom had been arrested for speaking out in BART stations during the August demonstrations. I was released about 8:30pm and the last few arrestees behind me were out shortly after that. The four who were booked into the jail were out by 3am the next morning.
And so as I was physically prevented from covering and being an eye-witness to further arrests and events at Powell Street station after I had been snatched by Coduti, the photos and story told here cannot directly go beyond this reporter’s arrest. Reports of BART police handcuffing other journalists, and misleading SFPD into taking their SFPD press passes by telling SFPD that the journalists had violated the law, can be found through other sources such as http://lafiga.firedoglake.com/2011/09/08/bart-police-arrest-journalists-cite-kgo-ktvu-at-bart-protest-homeland-security-present/.
It is notable that during the BART press conference, staged while they knew I was in handcuffs in the police substation, BART began referring to “legitimate” reporters, and Jim Allison as recently as today made a reference to reporters with “agendas” to SF State Journalism professor Justin Beck. As BART has run roughshod over the free speech rights of protesters of late, it has now done the same with journalists to varying degrees. Our U.S. Constitution, along with related U.S. and California law, offers strong journalistic protections, yet BART does not seem to understand that it is not within their authority to sort out “good” and “bad” journalists, nor to attack protesters without warning, simply for expressing views critical of the agency.
To begin to seek redress for my wrongful arrest, I will be filing formal complaints with both BART’s new police Auditor and Citizen Review Board. I will publish updates to Indybay regarding whatever may come of those. Thus far, there is little reason to hope for justice of any kind for anyone from either of these new “oversight” entities. Nevertheless, it is important that those who feel they have been treated unfairly or illegally by BART police stand up for themelves, create a public record, and likewise file complaints — be they journalists, protesters, or victims of police violence.