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New BART Protest, Counter-Protest Planned

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - For the third consecutive Monday, Bay Area Rapid Transit has advised passengers to be prepared for possible stations closures during the Monday evening commute if protesters once again try to disrupt train service.

But the protests will be different this time, according to the Twitter account of the loosely-organized hacking group "Anonymous," which is organizing the demonstration.

The protesters will be handing out fliers stating their demands, and they have been instructed by organizers not to enter the Civic Center station but to gather outside so as not to interfere with commuters.

Meanwhile, a counter-protest against the BART disruptions is also planned Monday according to a Facebook page promoting the action.

The BART's passenger advisory posted over the weekend indicates some stations could be closed temporarily or train service changed on short notice if members of Anonymous stage another demonstration.

"As always, BART's primary mission is to ensure your safety and keep trains on time," the statement reads in part.

A series of demonstrations targeting BART to protest the July 3 shooting of Charles Hill, a homeless man at Civic Center Station by transit police has impacted evening commute service on both BART and Muni in downtown San Francisco.

KCBS' Chris Filippi Reports:

Additional police officers have been deployed on Monday nights when the roving protests have usually been held. The demonstrations on Aug. 22 shut down Civic Center and Powell Street stations, and resulted in 40 arrests.

Dr. Rupa Marya, a former doctor of Hill's, will be in attendance at the protest Monday aiming not to disrupt commuters "but to educate a population that may need to pause and think about the value a human life has," she said in a post on her Facebook page.

Corby Sturges, who commutes toSan Francisco from the East Bay, will be leaving work early to make sure he can get out of the city before the demonstration begins. He called the protests "misguided."

"Interfering with the commute is not making much of a difference at BART headquarters," Sturges said. "The more effective protest would be focused at BART headquarters (rather) than commuters."

He said his colleagues have also become frustrated with the protests.

"Not sure disrupting the commute is the way to do it," Sturges said.

Kate Svinarich, who commutes to San Francisco from Oakland, called the protests "more irritating than convincing."

Someone fed up with the protests has set up a Facebook page titled "Commuters Take Back BART." The page states there will be a counter-protest against the Anonymous protest Monday night.

"BART commuters are sick and tired of 'protests' interfering with our right to use public transit, so we can earn a living and get back to our families," the site states.

"Let's take back BART from these misguided protesters and show them they are way outnumbered and will not shut down BART again," it reads.

BART shut down cellphone service in the stations during a protest on Aug. 15 and has closed multiple downtown stations in response to each protest.

Last Monday's protest resulted in the closure of the Civic Center and Powell Street stations and the arrest of about 40 people by San Francisco police.

BART held a community meeting last Wednesday to discuss the cellphone issue.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said that Monday night, there will be a similar BART police presence in the stations to that of previous weeks.

"We support peaceful protests so long as they're outside the fare gates," Allison said.

Allison said, however, that if protesters are demonstrating inside the station, they could be arrested.

He cited a California penal code section that states that anyone who "hinders the safe and efficient operation of the rail line or rail-related facility is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Protests have also been affecting the San Francisco Municipal Railway. Muni officials estimate the agency has spent $70,000 to bring in more station agents and parking control officers to cope with the service disruptions during the three demonstrations so far.

"I know that these protesters may feel strongly about their cause, but my hope is that they understand that their activities are having a short term and long term impact on hardworking San Franciscans and commuters," said Malcolm Heinicke, a member of the Municipal Transportation Agency board that oversees the San Francisco transit system.

Muni does not plan to seek any reimbursement from BART for the cost of the demonstrations, a spokesman said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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