(TMU) — Community members in the San Francisco Bay Area are outraged after video went viral depicting a commuter being arrested by public transportation police for eating a breakfast sandwich on a train platform.
In the video, the commuter—who identified himself on Facebook as Bill Gluckman—can be seen getting detained by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police officer for eating the small item. Gluckman protested being singled out by the BART cop before the officer is joined by backup, who eventually handcuff him for resisting arrest.
The incident, which occurred on Monday at 8 a.m., shows Gluckman arguing with the officer whose name tag identifies him as D. McCormick. In the video, McCormick says:
“You’re eating … It’s against the law.”
Gluckman then questioned why he was being singled out as McCormick held onto his backpack. As the cop demands that he cooperates, an agitated Gluckman responds, “Are you going to let go of my bag?” to which McCormick responds, “You’re going to jail.”
“For eating a ******* sandwich?”
Just out of curiosity.. has anybody ever got arrested and written a ticket for eating a breakfast sandwich on a Bart platform at 8:00 in the morning. Nobody? Just me? Okay
While Gluckman wasn’t taken to jail, he was handcuffed and issued a citation at a nearby police substation. KRON 4 reported that the incident escalated due to his refusal to give his name or show identification to the officer.
While BART has maintained that state law prohibits people from eating or drinking in paid portions of the station—an infraction carrying fines of up to $250—BART rarely issues food-related citations.
Local residents are angry about the clearly discretionary use of the officer’s time to harass a black man who was clearly just going about his day in a manner that didn’t harm anybody.
On Saturday, local station KGO-TV reported that BART riders held a defiant “eat-in” protest at lunch in protest of the BART officers’ actions.
J.J. Naughton of San Francisco said:
“I’ve got my lunch here, it’s very threatening as you can see.”
John Jacobo from San Francisco added:
“I wanted to make sure I showed up and ate on the plaza which I’ve done hundreds of times before to show what they did to us was embarrassing for BART Police.”
Local resident Kelly Groth passed out breakfast sandwiches for what she called the “brunch on BART,” commenting:
“People should be able to eat on the platform without getting harassed.”
BART Board of Directors Member Janice Li was also in attendance. Carrying her own lunch, she commented that the issue wasn’t so much about the breakfast sandwich but bigger issues at play. She said:
“I realize some things are illegal with our penal code, but I want to be mindful of how we’re using resources to enforce our system.”
In separate comments to the San Francisco Examiner, Li said:
“To see yet another young black man impacted by law enforcement like this is extremely troubling to me.
This is a question of what we are putting our BART police towards. We know how to make the system better and safer, and this ain’t it.”
John Reimann of Oakland commented that the protest reminded him of the Civil Rights era. He said:
“My first political awakening was back at a lunch counter in the ’60s, now we’re back to ‘eat-ins …To me, I have no doubt this guy was treated differently because he is a young black man.”
As SFist notes, the majority of cases where people are drinking or eating in BART paid areas go unpunished—as is often the case with people smoking, doing drugs, and engaging in other prohibited activities.
One Twitter user angrily commented:
“This is ******* bullshit!! You can piss and **** on yourself while smoking a crack pipe on Bart but god forbid you eat a breakfast sandwich on the platform.”
— 🇲🇽SaBreezie🇮🇪 (@SF_Gamerbabe11) November 8, 2019
And on Friday, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness sent out a tweet saying:
“It reminds us of the time SFPD issued a $234 citation to an unhoused senior for eating pizza at a bus stop.”
#BART cops out here getting someone for eating a sandwich on the platform.
It reminds us of the time SFPD issued a $234 citation to an unhoused senior for eating pizza at a bus stop. https://t.co/4Lq87AJLbx
— Coalition on Homelessness (@TheCoalitionSF) November 8, 2019
Officials with the transit authority have confirmed that they will be investigating the incident.
BART police have an atrocious reputation with the black community in the Bay Area, especially following the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant by BART officers.
In that incident, BART Officer Anthony Pirone called Grant the “N-word” while punching the young 22-year-old in the face as he arrested him before his partner, Officer Johannes Mehserle, shot Grant in the back. The murder became famous across the world after the release of Ryan Coogler’s 2014 film Fruitvale Station, which was named after the site of Grant’s death.
This latest incident also comes a bit more than a year after the infamous “BBQ Becky” incident, when a white woman, Jennifer Schulte, called the police on two black men last April for barbecuing at Oakland’s Lake Merritt using a charcoal grill in a non-charcoal area. The incident became a symbol of the gentrification of the Bay Area and of the broader problem of white people attempting to criminalize every mundane action by black people.
After video of the incident went viral, hundreds of black residents held their own massive BBQ to protest what they saw as further attempts to drive black people out of their own neighborhoods.
Since the incident with Ms. Schulte, the popular Oakland park has become a reinvigorated hub for the black community while the “Barbecuing While Black” party at Lake Merritt has shaped up to become an annual tradition that upholds the fight against racism while stressing belonging for a community facing the constant threat of displacement.
Shortly after last year’s BBQ Becky furor, another incident went viral after a woman dubbed “Permit Patty” called police on a black child selling water on a sidewalk in San Francisco. The woman, identified as Alison Ettel, eventually resigned from her position as CEO of cannabis company TreatWell Health following community backlash.
— November 12th 🦂 (@_ethiopiangold) June 23, 2018