SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - More than 20 protesters were arrested at San Francisco's Powell Street station Thursday evening at a rally organized by a group whose goal is to disband the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department.
An estimated 25 to 30 protesters were arrested by BART and San Francisco police officers on suspicion of interfering or disturbing the safe operation of a railroad after they were corralled together in a circle outside the fare gates, shutting the station down for about two hours, according to BART police Deputy Chief Daniel Hartwig.
The group "No Justice, No Bart" organized the protest, which drew dozens of supporters who are angry about the fatal shooting of Charles Hill, 45, at Civic Center station by BART police officers on July 3. Hill was allegedly wielding knives and a broken bottle as weapons when he was shot, police said.
Protesters filed into Powell Street station carrying signs reading "Disband BART Cops" and chanting "How can they protect and serve us? BART Police just make me nervous!" around 5 p.m.
The group marched around the concourse before huddling together outside the fare gates. At this point, BART police officers told protesters to disperse and many left the station, except for about 25 people.
Officers circled the remaining protesters, who cried out, "I'm being arrested for what BART administration told me to do." At about 5:30 p.m., officials closed the station's gates at Hallidie Plaza and blocked off all entrances. Passengers still exiting trains at the station were ushered out.
A couple of protesters pushed against police officers and were arrested and taken away in handcuffs. Most of the remaining protesters who were arrested would be cited and released, Hartwig said. Members of the media were also asked to leave the station.
Dozens of protesters and onlookers remained outside the station, including some who chanted "Let them go!" and others who yelled at officers blocking the escalators leading down the concourse.
"BART police are not there to protect the public," said Callie Maidhof, a spokeswoman for No Justice, No BART.
BART spokesman Jim Allison earlier Thursday said that shutting down the station would be a "last resort" and would happen only if the safety of travelers was threatened.
"We don't have an issue with protests," Allison said. "We have an issue with them interfering with people who wish to take the train home."
KCBS' Chris Filppi Reports:
Allison said BART has spent about $300,000 on increased manpower and overtime expenses during the protests that have taken place at San Francisco stations over the past two months.
"It's money we would rather spend on things like making sure the system's in a state of good repair or reinvesting in the infrastructure, but if we have to spend it to make sure trains are on time and people are safe during these demonstrations, we do that," Allison said.
Maidhof said protesters were within their rights to gather outside of the fare gates.
"People shouted and had signs and police came in and arrested them," she said. "(Do) they think coming in and arresting people just for shouting will improve their image?"
The Powell Street station was reopened at 7:25 p.m. and no other stations were closed during the protests. No significant train delays were caused as a result of the rally.
No Justice, No BART originally formed in 2009 to protest the BART police shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland.
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