10,000 signatures reached
To: Thomas Blalock, Bart Board of Directors President, Tom Radulovich, Bart Board of Directors Vice-President
BART Directors: When it comes to ending the war on Black communities, which side are you on?
As someone who believes that Black lives matter, I strongly urge Thomas Blalock and Tom Radulovich, President and Vice President, respectively, of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors, to end their shameful attempts to extort, intimidate, and demonize the Black protesters fighting for our right to live without police violence. I urge the BART Board of Directors to:
1) Withdraw the BART criminal complaint pending against the 14 Black leaders who put their lives on the line to temporarily interrupt BART trains on both sides of the West Oakland BART in protest of the police brutality epidemic that has taken too many Black lives.
2) Immediately suspend the punitive, retaliatory, and unconstitutional restitution of approximately $70,000 it is seeking in its attempt to silence Black protesters from speaking out against police brutality.
Using unreasonable fines and restitution to suppress Black protest is punitive, has a chilling effect on the people’s first amendment right to protest, and sets a dangerously anti-democratic precedent.
When it comes to preserving democracy and the dignity of Black life, which side are you on?
Why is this important?
Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people have made a resolution to fight for Black lives. Now, businesses, police departments, and other government agencies are trying to make us pay. Sign the petition, then take a selfie of yourself holding a sign that says, “Not one dime” or “We’ve already paid with our lives” and tweet it to @SFBart on Twitter.
On Black Friday, November 28, 2014, in response to a call to action from the Black community of Ferguson, Missouri, a team of 14 members of the #BlackLivesMatter network, dubbed the Black Friday 14, joined hundreds of thousands of others nationwide using civil disobedience to protest a discriminatory pattern of police and vigilante violence that has taken too many Black lives – including, most recently, the lives of Michael Brown, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Antonio Martin, and Eric Garner.(1)
Instead of citing and releasing protesters, or charging them with the same minor infraction applied to the thousands of multiracial allies that have blocked busses, trains, and traffic -- the Alameda County Deputy District Attorney has capitulated to aggressive pressure from the BART Board of Directors to apply a harsher penalty, that of misdemeanor criminal trespass, which requires these 14 protesters to pay tens of thousands of dollars -- up to 70,000 -- in “restitution” to BART.
The BART Board of Directors claims they are owed payment for lost fares on Black Friday 2014, but for decades the Bay Area Rapid Transit system has cost local Black communities our homes, jobs, safety, and even our lives. Who will pay for that?
In the 1950’s, Eminent Domain was used to displace Black businesses and homes along the once vibrant Black community of 7th street to build the BART system. (2) More recently, BART police have recklessly endangered and stolen Black lives. In January 2014, BART police attacked and tasered an unarmed Black man twice, then dragged him off the train. (3) In March, BART police beat and arrested Nubia Bowe, a 19-year old student and a Black woman suspected of dancing on the train; and in September BART police slammed a Black woman to the ground and charged her with resisting arrest. (4) (5)
On January 1st, 2009, BART Police shot and killed Oscar Grant, a 24-year-old unarmed Black man. (6) Since then, BART police officers have taken little to no corrective action, joining police departments and their representatives across the nation in escalating a war against Black communities instead. (7) Now, as justice-seeking people sing out on every street corner "which side are you on?" the Bay Area Rapid Transit is targeting courageous Black people who put their bodies on the line to fight for their lives, and unjustly fining them thousands of dollars for exercising their constitutional right to free speech.
We won't stand for it. And we need widespread public pressure to expose and stop BART's discriminatory and outrageous attempts to profit off and punish the growing movement for Black liberation. Instead of working to end the discriminatory pattern of police violence that continues without pause, the BART Board of Directors wants financial compensation from those fighting for the sanctity of their lives. There’s something terribly wrong with this picture.
This isn’t the first time BART has been targeted for its crimes -- but it is the first time an all Black group comprised of organizers, mothers, students, queers and women are being charged and asked to pay restitution for an action calling for an end to the war on Black lives. We cannot allow the BART Board of Directors to set this dangerous, undemocratic precedent.
1. Breaking: Black Lives Matter Protesters Shut Down BART at West Oakland Station, 11-28-14 http://goo.gl/ibbgis
2. Eminent Domain in West Oakland, http://goo.gl/e8Snd6
3. Depressing video: Black Man Tased and Dragged Off BART , 02-10-14 http://goo.gl/L3N1wn
4. BART police arrest, assault young woman for riding train while black, 04-29-14 http://goo.gl/e2jhYz
5. VIDEO: BART Police Officer Slams Woman to Floor, Incident Captured on Video, 09-05-14 http://goo.gl/V3OcB9
6. Oscar Grant’s Mother: ‘We Have to Be Relentless in the Vindication of Our Slain Sons’, 08-26-14 http://goo.gl/GQSjeX
7. BART Director: Cell Phone Shutdown Didn't Go Through Proper Channels, 08-11-13 http://goo.gl/4JEnTy