Oct 2, 2011

Report Back: #opBART-2 Shutsdown Two SF BART Stations, 40+ Arrested

See my report back on the original #opBART protest here

After the seeing the very disorganized nature of the first #opBART, many people showed up for round two hoping to help the protest be a little more directed, energized and radical. This time I didn't bother to go into the station, foreseeing its closure and all the protesters ending up in UN plaza and instead just waited above ground. People milled about not sure what to do, what was happening, etc. Eventually three protesters on the platform were arrested for raising their voices and being too loud, including a local zaney but committed older female anarchist. Everybody else was forced out of the station and the above ground crowd rushed to look over the railing down into the station as people streamed out.

At that point the crowd was just looking around, when one of the many anarchists present yelled "Powell!" Which got everybody moving east along market, but on the sidewalk. Certain individuals dressed in dark clothes got people into the streets pretty quickly, simply by walking out into the streets and two or three people shouting "take the streets!"

The group of 30-50 people marched along Market St to the Ferry building, accompanied by both a vanguard and rearguard of police. When we reached the Ferry Building the cops blocked our entrance and there was a brief stand-off. At this point we had put ourselves at a tactical disadvantage, the police were in perfect position encircle/kettle the entire group. But they didn't and the group turned around, heading back west along Market, in the street, with police escort.

When the group reached UN Plaza, an overweight older man in red started running along the crowd throwing punches. He tried to assault a comrade near me and several people in the proximity rushed to stop a fight and chase the man off. The assailant ran off, which caused a large group of protesters and media to peel off from the main group, adding half a block of distance between the two groups. Allegedly he was an "angry commuter" but he served the role of a provocateur and split the main march.

The group continued on Market before returning to UN Plaza. At this point one person with a bullhorn brought people out into market to block traffic. He was arrested and folks continued to march before being kettled by the police, who at that point just wanted to make it go away as darkness fell, most likely.

There were a number of important lessons from this protest. The importance of having several people to continuously lead chants and to help the direction of a march cannot be understated, especially when there is no organizing group as with opBart. Hopefully these folks have bullhorn, but just yelling works too.

The person with the bullhorn gets heard, in this case it was an Alex Jones/NWO-conspiracy type; he was talking about the federal reserve, how 9/11 was an inside job, and I felt like was one step away from mentioning "the international Jewish banking conspiracy." Not that I am unsympathetic to these causes, rather that that messaging was extremely off-topic and not exactly what any group's "mass-line" should be composed of.

The other thing of note is that a good comrade talked to me about following the protest from his house. He was watching the livestream video from the news helicopter; listening to the BART radio dispatch online as well as reading the twitter streams relevant to the action. Given the pretty comprehensive perspective this allowed, my comrade found it really interesting in terms of analyzing both the actions of the protesters and the police. The BART radio provided invaluable insight as to how inept and ill prepared BART was for these protests.

Stay tuned for more accounts of the #opBart protests. They will be coming out slowly but eventually all of the protests will be covered

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