Protesters took to Bay Area train platforms armed with sandwiches and brunch to stage “eat-ins” in support of a Black man handcuffed and cited for eating on a train platform in Walnut Creek on Monday, Nov. 4.
“I’ve got my lunch here, it’s very threatening as you can see,” San Franciscan JJ Naughton told ABC 7 at an Embarcadero BART Station where a protest took place Saturday.
Jon Jacobo said in an Instagram post Sunday he was also eating in protest.
“I wanna dedicate this delicious pork bun I’m eating ON a BART plaza to my brother that was disgracefully arrested by Bart Police,” he said. “@sfbayarearapidtransit do better, you’re embarrassing yourself. #BrunchOnBart”
Steve Foster was shown repeatedly telling BART officer D. McCormick he did nothing wrong in 15-minute-11-second video his girlfriend shot of McCormick grabbing and refusing to let go of Foster’s bag.
“It would have been simpler if he would have come up to me and said, ‘Hey, you can’t eat on BART nor on the platform,’” Foster told ABC affiliate KGO.
He said the officer made “a beeline straight” to him, and the video showed McCormick threatening Foster with jail time.
The encounter escalated to profanity and homophobic slurs that Foster said he doesn’t regret.
“I pretty much said everything that I felt that day and I don’t regret any of it,” he told KGO.
BART General Manager Bob Powers defended the officer in a statement Monday and also said the transportation agency has to have laws in place to move 415,000 riders each day while keeping its system “safe, welcoming, and clean.”
“I’ve seen the video of the incident involving a man eating on our platform and our police response,” Powers said. “Eating in the paid area is banned and there are multiple signs inside every station saying as much.”
Powers went on to say the situation didn’t have to escalate the way it did.
“The officer asked the rider not to eat while passing by on another call. It should have ended there, but it didn’t,” Powers said. “When the officer walked by again and still saw him eating, he moved forward with the process of issuing him a citation.
“The individual refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement.”
Powers said although the officer was doing his job, “context is key.”
“Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation,” Powers said. “We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely.
“I’m disappointed how the situation unfolded,” Powers said. “I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video.”
Some Twitter users responding Monday to the general manager’s statement weren’t buying the explanation.
“Apology NOT accepted. Do better,” @mikelcal tweeted.
“I’m less afraid of a chicken sandwich then I am of the heroin addicts who live in your stations,” @EmeryvilleMatty tweeted.
“what kinda non-apology….” @ichewonpushpins tweeted.
Other Twitter users sided with the officer.
“It sounds like a clear warning was given and the follow-up with a citation was appropriate. What was not appropriate was the homophobic response and resistance to consequences by the patron. No apology needed by BART,” @MrAndyScheer tweeted.
“No apology needed, laws are laws, they shouldn’t only be enforced when it’s convenient for passengers,” @xTealBlooded tweeted.
“If he can eat why can’t I smoke. They are both against the rules,” @breckstweet tweeted.