Members of the media, including seven SF State journalism students, were arrested and detained today at Powell BART station during the “no fare” BART protest.
Approximately 26-30 people were arrested for violating section 369I of the California Penal Code, which states that anyone interfering with the safe operation of a railway is guilty of a misdemeanor.
BART police officers with the assistance of SFPD closed Powell Station at 5:35 p.m., stating that demonstrators had created an unsafe environment for customers exiting and entering fare gates near Hallidie Plaza. Police and BART employees attempted to clear the station, repeatedly asking bystanders and media to leave.
Demonstrators shouted “No justice no peace, disband BART police,” and “You can’t shoot us all” during the protest organized by local activist group No Justice No BART. The protest was the most recent in a string of several demonstrations aimed at spotlighting several recent BART controversies, including the July shooting of Charles Hill at Civic Center station.
Several members of the press who had been detained inside the station by police were asked to hand over SFPD-issued press passes.
“The pass is property of SFPD and subject to revocation and surrender at any time by any uniformed police officer,” said Jim Allison, BART spokesman.
One SF State journalism student, Brad Wilson, 21, attended the protest for the purpose of completing an assignment for his Digital News Gathering class. Wilson was arrested while he was trapped in a circle of people who were impeding traffic. Wilson explained to officers that he was not a protestor, but his pleas to be released were ignored.
“When I told them I was a student doing an assignment, (an officer) said ‘I know, but you’re part of it,’” Wilson said.
Wilson was arrested and held for approximately two hours before he was released.
SF State student journalists Brittney Barsotti, Elizabeth Ireland, Krissa Stanton, Lisa Carmack, Mihail Matikov and Natalia Vasquez were among those detained. Ireland, who was separated from the group by BART police officers, was restrained and told she was being arrested.
The students attended the protest as part of an assignment for the Introduction to Online Journalism class. They were instructed to use social media as a reporting tool to write about what they saw at the protest.
All seven students were eventually released without citation.
Powell station was re-opened at 7:25 p.m., approximately two hours after being closed. The 43 other stations in the BART system remained open.