The surroundings are chaotic and it’s incredibly hard to hear yourself think. Between everyone shouting passionately and the average citizen just trying to commute, it’s hard to grasp the severity of the situation you are really in.
That’s how I viewed the Powell Bart Station protest on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. I was among the many journalism students and people in the media who found themselves to be victims of circumstance just doing what we enjoy.
I got to the station exactly at 5 p.m. and the first thing I see is a line of police officers. They were in full gear and meant business. I was going to try and not give them any trouble that night.
"Disarm Cops. Arm Feminists." One of the few signs that were being held. I stuck around that general spot and eventually watched a heated argument between protesters and a commuter who did not agree with the tactics. Some points he was a little extreme on. Others, I can’t help but agree.
"You don’t have a First Amendment right to cell phone service." the citizen said. "Especially on property owned by Bart.
To me, cell phones have always been a privilege. I’m trying to keep any huge opinions to myself, but I don’t agree with cell phone service being turned off at a Bart station compared to what happened to Egypt. Only one station would have no cell phone service as compared to the entire internet and mobile companies being completely shut off for almost an entire country. Then yes, I would be pissed off too. Your phones have not completely shut down and you are not being forced to shut them down. Walk 20 feet away and you can tweet all you want. 20 years ago we wouldn’t even have this topic to protest over.
Plus, you’re on the Bart. How many people actually have great service when riding the Bart? I have an iPhone and I still can’t make calls or send out text messages until I’m out of the station.
Cell phone opinions aside, eventually a gentlemen who identifies himself as Krystof and a huge part of nojusticenobart, began leading a riled up group in chants and walking in a circle throughout the station.
"How can they protect and serve us? Bart Police just make me nervous!" they shouted. "No justice, no peace. Disband the Bart Police!"
I saw two young gentlemen, who couldn’t have been older than 18-years-old, joining in on the protest. I asked myself, “Why?” They weren’t a part of the whole fiasco until the chants started. They weren’t doing anything to contribute to the cause. To me, they just wanted a reason to get riled up and excuses to yell and go against forms of authority. That is what can make protests dangerous. Sure, we’re all up for a peaceful demonstration but you’re going to have those who will use a protest as an excuse to be excessively aggressive which is what leads to much of the violence at a protest. I know No Justice, No Bart and Anonymous want a non-violent protest so it could seriously damage what they are doing.
Granted, these two gentlemen were harmless, but it’s an example of how it can turn into much like what happened earlier this June after game seven of the Vancouver and Boston Stanley Cup Final. Vancouver had lost 4-0 and fans began to riot; tipping over cars, lighting them on fire, and beating up Boston fans. It gave the city of Vancouver a bad name but the violent fans were the ones who just wanted to be out of control from the get go, win or lose. They don’t know why they are belligerent except that it has something to do with a hockey game. I don’t know why I’m really protesting, except that it has something to do with me not liking the police.
Now, I am filming the whole time and looking at everything through my phone. I have no peripheral and only see what’s literally in front of me. That proved to be detrimental because what was really beginning to go on around me was the police force beginning to circle around the group of protesters, trapping me, them, and other journalists.
Krystof announced the news that we were being detained after talking to an officer who said we were violating California Penal Code Section 369i. Bart told the protesters to stay outside the fare gates a few days before if they wish to protest. From my observation, they were but ended up getting circled anyway.
That just led to more group chants of “Let us go!”, “You can’t kill us all!”, “We are Charles Hill! We are Oscar Grant!”
The gates were shut and people from the outside watched as we became circled.
They started yelling, “Let them go!” and other profanities at the police. It was pretty nice having support from the outside. It was like being an away team with the crowd rooting for you at a sporting event.
Krystof was gone before I could see what had really happened and other heads of the protest were slowly being pulled out of the circle and arrested.
Once the police realized that they had detained students and media, they separated us. Media and students were to go on Deputy Police Chief Daniel Hartwig’s right and everyone else on his left.
Also, with the journalists being told 4-6 times that we needed to leave or we’ll be arrested, as far as I know, is not true. I don’t know if it was just because I got caught up with the chaos and I just didn’t hear the megaphone which tends to be pretty loud, or if I just didn’t hear it. Well, I didn’t hear it. So, Jim Allison, has some nerve if he’s trying to place the blame on us.
The media and journalism students were standing next to Hartwig almost the whole time since he was the one checking IDs and then sending each one of us to be searched and examined by other officers. They wanted official press pass and by a tweet I sent out that became pretty famous retweet showed I didn’t have a press pass. I had my student ID which I showed Officer Hartwig.
We were just standing around for a bit not really do much. They had to “filter” through us as Hartwig said and it takes a long time. After the shock of being detained wore off for a bit, me and the other students began casually talking to Hartwig.
Say what you want about this man, but he’s a cool guy. He has a job to and does it well obviously. He even gave me hard time for my Detroit Red Wing’s shirt asking where my shark’s shirt was. We then went to briefly, (very briefly) discussing about the Russian plane that went down Sept. 7 killing three ex-Red Wings and other former NHL players. I guess you could say I saw a very human side to him. He is just a person who, like many of us, have a job to do. Whether or not I agree with the tactics that went on that night, I respect that man and his officers.
I was just finishing up a tweet when I saw a big and dark image coming towards me. I looked up and hear, “Put that in your pocket so it doesn’t break.”
The officer then began putting me in zip ties. I protested that I was a student but it was ignored and I was taking away while yelling out my name to San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Vivian Ho.
I was taken away, searched, identified, teased a bit because I wear skinny jeans; you know the basics. I tried one more time to protest my arrest stating I’m a student just doing my job. It was ignored and I was basically told I was part of the circle of people making the Bart unsafe and that it’s a misdemeanor and I’m going to jail.
It was ironic when I was sitting with the protesters along the wall waiting for a transportation to take us jail and watching the police with their phones.
A female officer came out to us and kept asking, “Is there a Brad here?” Understand, my legal name is John Bradley Wilson, but I go by Brad. I was booked as John so I thought it was someone else.
While along the wall, I began swaying a bit trying to hold in my bladder basically. One of the officers who was talking to the protesters who kept yelling at him, saw me and asked if I was ok. I just simply stated, “I really need to go.”
He looked at me a bit and asked my name. I told him John Wilson, but I go by Brad. Turns out, Justin Beck, my teacher, Sara Donche, and other Xpress staff members sent in officers including the female officer to come in and get me.
It was ironically not being able to use the restroom that prevented my trip to jail. The officer then escorted me out. I wish I got his name because he was also a really cool person. He had glasses and was a shorter gentleman. He was very calm spirited and even when he was amongst a heated debated with the protesters I was cuffed with, he kept a very calm voice and to me at least, it seems he sympathizes with the tragedy of Oscar Grant and Charles Hill.
I said my thanks to him and was greeted by the lovely people who got me out.
I don’t in any ways condone what happened to Oscar Grant and Charles Hill. it was a tragedy and the officers responsible should have served longer. After being arrested though, which I know is very different than being shot at or losing a loved, I hold no grudges towards the police force. It is ridiculous how many students and media were arrested that night I’ll agree with that. But I recently read a book called “Joey The Hitman” by David Fisher. It’s an autobiography of a hitman who used to kill people for the mafia. When he was 16-years-old, he was tied to a chair and beaten up by an officer. What he said I felt is very relevant to what’s going on with our protests.
"I don’t blame the police force. I blame the police man. I know there are good cops."-Joey The Hitman