COLLEGIAN – COMMENTARY Sep. 27, 2011
By Dan Murphy
It is refreshing to hear some positive news regarding BART and the protesters who have held weekly demonstrations against the agency and its police department. These protests surround issues of freedom of speech and the July 3 shooting death of Charles Hill, a homeless man.
BART’s General Manager, Grace Crunican, has offered to meet with protesters and have a conversation that would allow both sides to gain a deeper understanding of arguments and possible solutions. Some progress finally might be made.
“I’m open to meeting with anyone who wants to meet with me — protesters included,” said Crunican, who assumed her new position September 12.
I feel this is a positive move on her part. When she comes off as approachable, protesters and commuters alike will feel they can have their voices heard. This is true if, and only if, they take the next step to accept her genuine proposal.
We have heard the protesters’ voices at San Francisco BART stations enough already. It is time for them to take their passion and efforts to Crunican who can actually so something about their demands.
Although I am not a regular commuter to and from San Francisco, I use the service as much as possible. It is relatively inexpensive and saves a lot of time when trying to get to a baseball game, the airport for a flight home, or simply a day in The City. BART is much more important to commuters who actually rely on the service daily.
When BART service is stopped due to demonstrations, the direct cause is headaches for commuters simply trying to get to their destination. When a parent is forced to pay a late fee for not picking up a child at day care on time or a student misses a night class because of protesters, their activities become excessive.
Crunican has said on behalf of BART that the protesters “have a right to protest — and we understand that — as long as customers can keep coming and going and service can be provided.”
This is a valid point and echoes my feelings. The protesters have an unquestioned right to voice their disagreements with BART. We all have the right to do so. It crosses the line, however, when they endanger public safety by overcrowding stations which have electric third rails and heavy machinery passing by.
BART is currently pushing to become a part of Assembly Bill 716, which would give them authority to give restraining orders to protesters who have multiple violations in the past 90 days. If the protesters were to return, they would run the risk of being arrested and charged with misdemeanors.
Grace Crunican has taken a crucial step to put an end to the protests that have become a nuisance to many people who are transit dependant. The commuters are easily paying the biggest price. If protesters were to actually talk to BART, they would get a lot more accomplished, possibly see some demands met, and avoid possible arrest.
This issue needs some closure and I am happy that BART has respectfully offered to work with the protesters, not solely against them. I hope Crunican’s outreach leads to some real results.