|By Reginald James|
Playing drums, brass instruments and chanting, over 200 demonstrators gathered for two hours at Embarcadero BART station to protest BART’s poor handling of the 2009 New Year’s Day shooting.
Over 30 BART police and two dozen other BART employees in bright neon green vests were on the Embarcadero BART platform to prevent service disruptions. There were a few minor delays, and one man was arrested for allegedly blocking a train door.
Protesters shouted, “No Justice! No Peace! Disband the BART Police!” and called for the firing of BART police officer Tony Pirone – currently on paid administrative leave, who Grant’s family said escalating the situation moments before the shooting.
Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed Grant while he laid face down with his hands behind his back, has been charged with the murder of Grant. Mehserle’s trial begins in June.
As trains were briefly delayed, most commuters were confused about what was taking place. Some commuters were visibly upset while other passengers chanting along with demonstrators, and a few even left the trains to join the protest.
Protesters later swarmed onto trains, followed by police, BART employees and press shortly behind. The demonstrations continued at Montgomery, Powell St and Civic Center stations before returning back to Embarcadero station. Tensions then began to rise.
Police blocked off an escalator, while protesters began delaying trains longer.
Protesters tried to board a train when police suddenly moved in to stop them. Police pushed and pulled protesters away from the train door and BART police arrested a man for allegedly blocking a door. He was escorted to the police sub-station upstairs.
|"We’re not going to give up until Tony Pirone is fired. BART is not qualified to run a police force. They are accountable to no one. BART police must be disbanded. Actions will be escalated. We will continue to be peaceful and non-violent. We won’t stop fighting until justice is truly served."|
Oakland for Justice
An hour after the sole arrest, BART police escorted the man up to Market Street where he was taken to County Jail.
Protester and Oakland for Justice co-organizer Hannibal Shakur said demonstrations will continue until BART is held accountable for its mishandling of the shooting.
“We’re not going to give up until Tony Pirone is fired,” Shakur said. “BART is not qualified to run a police force. They are accountable to no one. BART police must be disbanded.”
A few weeks ago, Pirone’s partner Marysol Domenici was fired by Interim BART police Chief Dash Butler. Following the protest, he said Pirone’s case is currently being investigated.
“Actions will continue to escalate,” Shakur said. “We will continue to be peaceful and non-violent. We won’t stop fighting until justice is truly served.”
The protester who was arrested was cited and released shortly after 11 p.m.