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All About the BART McMuffin Protests

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Muni may have those cornball dad-joke signs about proper backpack etiquette and standing away from the doors to facilitate ingress and egress, but it’s BART’s rules and regs that have made the news since last Friday.

The saga began last Monday, when a BART police officer with the badge name McCormick approached Steve Foster of Concord at the Pleasant Hill station during the morning commute. Numerous people were eating and drinking on the platform, but Foster, who is African-American, was singled out for a citation for consuming a breakfast sandwich. Foster was handcuffed, as his girlfriend caught it on her cellphone, although once cited, Foster was not actually arrested.

Yes, eating on BART is against state law. Eating on BART might even be downright antisocial, if you’re tearing into something especially fragrant on a crowded train. But the prohibition is widely flouted and seldom enforced — and when such administrative infractions require intervention, handcuffs are complete overkill. Plus, there is also that basic human need to consume calories several times per day in order to remain healthy and alive. It’s not as if this ordinance is above debate, either; as we also learned last week, BART once floated the proposal to include an Amtrak-style bar car on its trains as a way to boost ridership during an entirely different downturn.

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BART’s general manager Bob Powers has subsequently apologized for the Nov. 4 incident, saying “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.”

This is BART GM Bob Powers, in a marketing campaign created by BART.  (we at BAS feel like BART should also apologize for making this gif.)

Putting the episode in its fullest context, Powers also stated that Foster “refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm throughout the entire engagement.”

As Janice Li, a progressive BART director, observed on Twitter, “Enforcement is a function of the way resources are allocated vs what the laws are. Not every broken law is enforced; we know that. & for me, there are WAY bigger issues at BART than enforcing no drinking/eating.”

Li also led a “Brunch on BART” protest over the weekend, which several dozen people attended.

But that’s not all. An event called “Eat a McMuffin on BART: They Can’t Stop Us All” has gotten more than 500 people to click “going,” even though hey, Pleasant Hill is in Contra Costa County. (Somewhat more socially conscious than September’s hoax-driven, they-can’t-stop-us-all rush on Area 51, it even made the Washington Post.)

Reached for comment, co-organizer Alyssa Williams called the incident “such a frivolous, small infraction, and a ridiculous thing that we all do every single day.” A veteran of Black Lives Matter protests and Occupy-related direct actions, she was moved to respond because of the asymmetry of police responses.

“A man was killed by police in Vallejo the other night,” she said, referring to an as-yet unidentified man killed by an off-duty Richmond police officer. “Everything’s really messed up right now. [Eat a McMuffin on BART is] almost silly, but it’s something small that everyone can participate in.”

Williams added that she plans to make vegan breakfast sandwiches for attendees who don’t eat meat or cheese. Other than doling them out, she has no plans to make a speech or lead the protest. Also, she encourages everyone to pay their fare, as this isn’t a fare strike and any authorities roaming the platform are sure to be checking for tickets.

“I’m satisfied to be one person in a big crowd,” she says. “I’m going to let it go the way it goes.”

Eat a McMuffin on BART: They Can’t Stop Us All
Saturday NOV 16, 1 PM – 3 PM
Pleasant Hill Bart Station
FB EVENT PAGE

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Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane (they/them) is the Communications Manager for San Francisco Pride and a former editor of SF Weekly.

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