Supporters of Black Friday Protesters Demand That BART Drop All Charges

Supporters of the BART 14 are pushed out of the Jan. 22 board meeting after the unfurl a banner at the beginniing of the meeting saying "We stand with the Black Friday 15. Drop the charges. Photo by Ken Epstein

Supporters of the BART 14 chant and hold up a banner at the beginniing of the Jan. 22 BART board meeting that says,  “We stand with the Black Friday 15. Drop the charges.” Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ashley Chambers

Protesters who took over the West Oakland BART station and shut down the trains on Black Friday received an outpouring of support on Thursday as the community members rallied outside the BART Board meeting demanding that the transit agency drop all charges against them

The “Black Friday 14” protesters are facing misdemeanors and a $70,000 restitution fee for shutting down service at the West Oakland BART station for several hours on Nov. 28.

They chained themselves together to a train car handrail to disrupt “business as usual” on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Their action was in solidarity with Ferguson and New York, where two unarmed Black men were killed at the hands of police officers. Both officers were not indicted in the deaths.

Supporters of the Black Friday 14 unfurl a banner at the beginning of the Jan. 22 BART board meeting.

Supporters of the Black Friday 14 unfurl a banner at the beginning of the BART board meeting.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican has expressed an “interest in community service as an element of restitution,” as a possible way to drop the restitution penalty, according to a statement released b BART earlier this month.

However, the protesters attended the BART Board meeting Thursday to call on the directors to rescind the “ransom” and drop charges against them.

“BART needs to pick what side of justice they want to be on, the righteous side or the side that prosecutes students, women, farmers, people who contribute to the Oakland community for standing up and demanding that the war on Black lives comes to an end,” said Cat Brooks, one of the 14 protesters and co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee, speaking in an interview with the Oakland Post.

Many local organizations including the Third World Resistance Coalition are standing in solidarity with the Black Friday 14 and demanding that BART drop all charges.

Organizations like Movement Generation, Youth Together, and The BlackOut Collective took to social media to show their solidarity with the 14 charged protesters, posting photos of individuals and groups of people holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “I Stand with the #BlackFriday14.”

The Berkeley City Council this week unanimously passed a resolution urging the BART Board of Directors to “withdraw their criminal complaint against the 14 protesters” and to “suspend the restitution.”

The resolution also notes that “most protesters who have disrupted traffic or public transit service have merely been cited and released or charged with minor infractions.” It says the prosecution BART is seeking on the Black Friday 14 “could have a chilling effect for those who wish to exercise their First Amendment Rights to free speech.”

A similar resolution is expected to come before the Oakland City Council.

Brooks says the Black Friday 14 are going to “continue to engage the community around supporting the right to assemble and protest.”

The protesters are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 4. They are asking the community to come support them at the Alameda County.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)