Monday, August 15, 2011

Free Speech vs Public Transit in San Francisco

Can one hundred people shut down the public transportation system in a major city? When the city is San Francisco and the system is BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) the answer is a resounding yes. As a working commuter, an advocate of free speech, a person opposed to assassinations by BART police, and a proud survivor of the social protest movements of the seventies and eighties, the kind of power that a small, dedicated group of protestors weilded this evening was astounding

The fact is BART police, hand-in-hand with the SFPD brought the traffic in San Francisco to a standstill all because of a handful of vocal folks with signs. The protest was called because the original demonstration against the BART police murder of Charles Hill in the Civic Center BART station on July 3rd, 2011. Hill was a forty-five year old mentally impaired individual. On New Year's Day of 2009, BART police officer Johannes Meserle shot and killed Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station. With this kind of a track record, it's easy to pinpoint why those trigger happy boys in blue are having so many problems in the Bay Area.

As we look at the events today it is imperative to remember a few things:

First of all, people have the right not to get shot in a public transit station just because they're mentally ill, black or a bit mentally off. This, you would think, goes without saying.

Second, when methods of communication media are tampered with by authorities this smacks of totalitarianism. Iran, Egypt, China, all other speech-supressed nations come into focus.

Third, it is a total overreaction to mobilize as many law-enforcement officers as protestors to try to attempt to abrogate a simple protest, i.e.: freedom of speech in action.

Yes, people were protesting the BART shootings as well as the intentional wireless disruption to prevent organizing.

Whatever emotions these activities bring up is a separate issue. Shutting down the BART system along with the MUNI bus and trolley lines is not only an uncalled for overreaction by the authorities, it is also a breach of the U.S. Constitution.