In the aftermath of a BART police officer killing a young Black man outside West Oakland BART station, the public transportation agency is scaling up its violent engagement towards low-income residents of Oakland by using $2.7 million to fund a new fare enforcement regime to require “proof-of-payment” and hand out fines.
Update (February 11, 2018): After learning via social media from the family of Sahleem about the body camera footage and hearing their requests of local media, we added more detail to counter the lies told by OPD and parroted by the press that Sahleem was aiming a gun at the BART police officer. We also changed the spelling of Sahleem's name, but kept the spelling used by his brother, Karim, below.
Just three days into 2018, BART police officer Joseph Mateu shot a young Black man across the street from West Oakland BART station. As local departments often do, BART PD and OPD held off bystanders and paramedics as the young man bled out on the sidewalk in front of folks trapped by police inside the barber shop on the corner of 7th and Chestnut.
His name was Sahleem Tindle. His brother Karim Mayfield, a professional boxer, wrote on Instagram the next day:
“My Heart is aching right now, my little brother Shaleem was just murdered by Bart police in West Oakland yesterday.” (via @karimhardhittamayfield on Instagram)
BART authorities and news reports were quick to clarify (for the busy and otherwise unbothered transplants and commuters of the Bay Area) that the West Oakland BART station remained open and “train service was not affected.” Officer Mateu, who killed Tindle, is now on paid leave. The Oakland Police Department falsely alleged Tindle was pointing a firearm at the responding BART officer. The body camera footage that was shown to Tindle's family proved that Tindle was shot in the back and was not holding a firearm.
Three days earlier, residents of Oakland mourned the 9-year anniversary of the killing of Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar in the back while he was sitting on top of Oscar on the ground of the train platform. In the wake of mass protests in Oakland and national media attention, Uncle Bobby Grant and other activists and organizers worked at the local and state level to create a BART Police Citizen Review Board (BPCRB) in 2010.
Yet the concept of citizen oversight of local law enforcement departments is always more powerful in theory than in execution. The BPCRB meetings are hard to access, the agendas aren’t posted online, and they don’t challenge the daily terror that BART officers inflict on the people of Oakland. If anything the oversight board co-sponsors police violence by sitting back and focusing on other bureaucratic “priorities” that are set by the changing face of Oakland.
In the spring and summer of 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle reported with condescending anger and thinly veiled racism on two separate groups of youth who boarded BART trains at Coliseum Station. News stories from these two events described a “violent teen robbery”, a “teen mob,” a “swarm,” a “takeover” by “40 to 60 teens.” A May 2017 report describes with precious sympathy the plight of a white family in Dublin, CA that is suing BART for over $3 million for having a cell-phone and purse allegedly taken.
Nothing in the coverage of these two days in 2017 described the context of what happened at Coliseum Station. There is no mention of the rapid gentrification of Oakland over the last decade, or how white transplants are buying up the houses in deep East Oakland that Black and Brown families are being forced out of in foreclosure waves happening since the housing crisis of 2005. There is no mention of the oppressive police presence, nor the historic disinvestment of Oakland city funds, in the neighborhoods surrounding Coliseum Station. No San Francisco Chronicle op-ed has explored the impact on local residents of swarms of fans traveling from suburban outposts to converge upon San Leandro Avenue for A’s, Warriors, and Raiders games.
Proof of Payment
In the aftermath of the Chronicle’s fear-mongering news coverage, BART started to make big moves to show the residents of Oakland that white people’s comfort was their top priority. The presence of BART police at Coliseum Station immediately grew. BART announced it was changing its fare evasion policy to now require “proof of payment.” BART approved a $2.7 million budget increase to create a new enforcement regime, hiring “community service agents” to patrol trains with handheld devices and hand out fines to youth and adults alike. Money will also be spent to reconstruct fare gates at various stations to physically deter jumping.
BART claims that this $2.7 million budget increase is a drop in the bucket compared to the $15-25 million it (dramatically, albeit unscientifically) claims it loses each year due to fare evasion. Many a BART rider can tell you about how they’ve seen a commuter with a Clipper Card loaded up with $200 in front of them at the station, or heard a professional brag that their company reloads their Clipper Cards every month with funds they never use. In New York City, organizers started a campaign called #SwipeItForward where commuters with company cards and/or generosity of spirit swiped for folks who asked for assistance at fare gates. Many people around the U.S. recognize the stark race and class divides in their cities and how historic injustices are impacting the material reality of people’s daily lives.
Yet BART doesn’t want to listen to city-wide cries for a sliding scale plan where youth, elders, and low-income folks ride for free. They ignore this solution even though it could be subsidized by the high-income commuters who now crowd the aisles as they displace long-time residents in neighborhood after neighborhood near BART lines. Instead BART is ramping up its notorious and lethal history of displacement, militancy, and ethnic cleansing. With zero empathy or compassion for the increasing poverty and houselessness crises in Oakland, BART is cracking down on low-income riders and youth at the same time as they pass out thousands of free tickets to suburban sports fans on the weekends to “increase ridership.”
BART claims that even though it’s new “proof-of-payment requirement” went into effect on January 1, 2018, there was a “grace period” until February 1, 2018 where they “warned” riders instead of ticketing them. They say they’re trying to spread the word about the new policy in the spirit of fairness. Their efforts in this respect are targeted more at the predominantly white professional commuter class they are trying to cater to than the low-income residents in Oakland who are no longer desirable members of their public transit community:
“Fare cheats beware, be ready to show proof of payment in 2018.” (via @SFBART on Twitter)
Meanwhile, BART is rolling out its shiny new line of trains. This “Fleet of the Future” is meant to clean up BART’s image and make it easier for bikers and the business class to access trains during rush hours. Yet there’s only so much you can do to clean up the face of a public transportation agency dedicated to excluding the long-time residents of Oakland by threat of fine or deadly force.
It’s been almost a decade since Oscar Grant’s murder and BART and despite a superficial attempt at “civilian oversight” BART police are still ramping up their abuse and violence. When will it stop?
Police identify BART officer who fatally shot man near West Oakland station, Kimberly Veklerov, San Francisco Chronicle, January 10, 2018, http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Police-identify-BART-officer-who-fatally-shot-man-12488158.php
@SFBART on Twitter, December 21, 2017: “Fare cheats beware, be ready to show proof of payment in 2018. Learn more: http://bddy.me/2kUXyeB”, https://twitter.com/SFBART/status/943955327321542656
BART randomly hands out free tickets to boost weekend ridership
Matier & Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, September 18, 2017, http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/BART-randomly-hands-out-free-tickets-to-boost-12203813.php
BART: ‘It’s no longer open season for fare evasion’, Erin Baldassari, The Mercury News, September 14, 2017, https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/09/14/bart-its-no-longer-open-season-for-fare-evasion/
Another violent teen robbery on BART in Oakland - but this time, victim saves day
Michael Bodley, San Francisco Chronicle, July 5, 2017, http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Another-violent-teen-robbery-on-BART-in-Oakland-11268585.php
Dublin family seeks $3 million over BART teen mob robbery, Michael Bodley, San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2017, http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Dublin-family-seeks-3-million-over-BART-teen-mob-11130935.php
BART takeover robbery: 40 to 60 teens swarm train, hold up riders, Demian Bulwa and Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 2017