Oakland – “White BART Police Officer McCormick Detaines Black Steve Foster For Eating Sandwich”. That’s the correct story, and because, unlike the SF Bay Area Media, the headline includes the fact that, for what seems and just may be, the millionth time, a white police officer violating the rights of a black person. You wonder when this is going to stop?
This time, it’s the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) Police. The same organization responsible for the wrongful death of Oscar Grant. A man named Steve Foster, but who calls himself “Bill Gluckman” on Facebook, was detained for the simple act of eating a sandwich by BART Police Officer D. McCormick a week ago, Monday November 4th, 2019.
This is the video of the incident as it happened:
But is that against the law? Well, before we continue, the fact is, for decades, BART has had a prohibition against eating or even drinking on the trains. I discovered that the hard way while rushing to work at a system dynamics consulting engagement I had with the San Francisco Consulting Group in 1993.
At 19th Street BART Station, 20th Street Entrance, I had a simple cup of coffee, and this white female police officer yelled out to me to stop, and then scolded me for having the java. She then gave me a parting gift of a warning. I wasn’t detained at all. But the question of what specific part of the California Penal Code that falls under, is a good question. At the time, I didn’t follow up to determine the answer, even though I did complain to BART about the encounter.
The reason I complained is that I saw white BART passengers with coffee all the time. Moreover, as the BART Officer was harassing me, she let several white riders who had coffee in their hands, walk by. No one said anything to them. So, I can’t have a simple cup of coffee?
The officers incredulously remarked that I took a sip of mine, whereas they were carrying theirs. I kid you not. Since she zeroed in on me, she could have missed any one of the white women with coffee who walked by me.
So, from the perspective of my experience, what happened to Steve Foster at the hands of BART Police Officer was totally psychotic. Thank God for the sane people who held a lunch-time “eat-in” protest at Embarcadero BART Station. And thank God for the white participants who know and said that Steve was detained just because he’s black.
This is what BART Media Relations reported:
“This occurred at around 8am on 11/4 and the man was issued a citation. He was not arrested. He was cited for eating which is a violation of state law. It isn’t just a policy or ordinance, it is penal code.
No matter how you feel about eating on BART, the officer saw someone eating and asked him to stop, when he didn’t, he was given a citation.
The individual was not cooperative and was refusing to provide his name which is needed for a citation and is why the engagement lasted as long as it did.
It’s mind-boggling that BART Media Relations doesn’t think this is nuts.
But Is Eating On BART Against The Law? Well, It’s An Infraction According To California Penal Code Section 640 (2) (b) (1).
California Penal Code Section 640 (2) (b) (1) is the law, and it reads “This section shall apply only to acts committed on or in a facility or vehicle of a public transportation system. (b) (1) Eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom Should Remove California Penal Code Section 640 (2) (b) (1), And Replace It With A Simple No-Littering Law
California Governor Gavin Newsom should sign an executive order calling for the immediate removal of California Penal Code Section 640 (2) (b) (1), and for two simple reasons:first, it discriminates against anyone who has to eat something for medical reasons, second, it’s used by BART Police against blacks far more than against whites. Moreover, if a person has to drink medicine, they could be wrongly detained under the current law. Indeed, that may have already happened considering the years the law has been on the books. Also, as I pointed out before, the law is selectively enforced by a SF BART police system that’s all too racist.
If SF BART’s concern is keeping trains clean, then a simple anti-littering law should be installed. If you take a close read of the current set of prohibitions under California Penal Code Section 640, not one mentions littering, but “Eating or drinking”, “Playing unreasonably loud sound equipment”, “Smoking”, “Expectorating”, “Skateboarding, roller skating, bicycle riding, roller blading, or operating a motorized scooter or similar device”,”Selling or peddling any goods, merchandise, property”, “Evasion of the payment of a fare of the system”, “Misuse of a transfer, pass, ticket”, ” Carrying an explosive, acid, or flammable liquid “, “Unauthorized use of a discount ticket”, “Willfully blocking the free movement of another person”, “Willfully tampering with a facility public transportation vehicle”, are all listed.
Taken as a whole, a number of the laws look as if they were put there after someone saw a poor black person on public transit, and made up a list of infractions they believed that kind of person was most likely to violate. That’s an even better reason why California Penal Code Section 640 (2) (b) (1) should be removed, and replaced with words forming a new legal subdivision that specifically says this: “Littering on public transit stations or in vehicles is prohibited.” Believe it, or not, that’s not there.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media