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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Oscar Grant Protesters Hope to Shut Down Fruitvale BART Station Next Week

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2009 at 11:22 AM

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A group of East Bay residents protesting BART officials' handling of the shooting death of Oscar Grant on New Year's Day say they plan to shut down the Fruitvale station on Thursday, March 5, during evening rush hour.

The effort will mark the first organized attempt by protesters to disrupt the commuter train's operations -- though, last month, BART service was disrupted by riots in response to Grant's death.

George Ciccariello-Maher, an Oakland resident and spokesman for the protest group No Justice No BART, said demonstrators hope to force BART officials to close the Fruitvale stop through a "mass mobilization" to the station. He said the protesters are ready to try other tactics -- although he said violence would not be necessary -- to shut down the station if their gambit doesn't work.

"I don't think it's necessarily public knowledge yet, but there's a number of ways to shut down a BART," Ciccariello-Maher said.

In an interview, BART spokesman Linton Johnson declined to comment on whether officials are preparing a special response, such as extra security measures, for next Thursday. He also wouldn't say whether BART passengers should be concerned for their safety or avoid the Fruitvale station on the day of the demonstration.

"Our job is to get people from point A to point B safely, and we'll do what we need to in order to do that," Johnson said.

The shooting of Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old black man, by white BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle has stoked widespread outrage in the Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay, where riots broke out on Jan. 7 in the wake of the incident. Mehserle has been charged with homicide by the Alameda County District Attorney's office, but Ciccariello-Maher said BART itself has not been held accountable.

No Justice No BART has posted eight demands of the agency on its Web site, including the "abolition" of the BART Police, the resignation or firing of BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger and BART Police Chief Gary Gee, and "economic development and youth programs to repair relationships with communities of color."

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