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Phil Matier: Planned Protest At BART Station Fails To Materialize

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A commuter looks on as a BART train pulls into a station in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A planned protest at the Bay Area Rapid Transit Service’s Civic Center station over the shooting of a man last month failed to materialize during Thursday afternoon’s commute.

But the agency said that riders should be vigilant in coming weeks while the threat of protests lingers.

“Today we heard rumors there might be protests, and there might be protests tomorrow,” agency spokesman Linton Johnson said at a media briefing tonight inside the Powell Street station. “We don’t know.”

BART had put a warning on its website Thursday for passengers to be “advised that protesters may attempt to disrupt train service during August commute periods beginning as early as Thursday, August 11, 2011, in downtown San Francisco BART stations.”

On July 11, protesters disrupted rush-hour commutes in response to the killing of Charles Hill by BART police a week earlier. BART police arrested a number of protesters that night and temporarily closed San Francisco’s Civic Center BART station, among others.

On Thursday afternoon, BART police were standing, with about a dozen officers in riot gear and a dozen safety officers in green vests present on the train platform at Civic Center Station, where protesters were expected to gather around 4:30 p.m.

Lt. Andy Alkire said that no arrests were made Thursday and that it helped to have a uniformed police presence.

“I don’t believe it was a hoax,” Alkire said. “We had pretty good intelligence that it was going to happen.”

As an added precaution, the agency shut off cellphone service on the station’s platform. While Alkire said the tactic was an unusual measure, he said it was “a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose” given that the agency was expecting a potentially volatile situation.

“This group seems to want to challenge BART, challenge the police department,” Alkire said.

BART was not the only transit agency that took precautions Thursday afternoon. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also announced that it had shut down regular cable car service on the Powell Street portion of the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines at 3:30 p.m.

Shuttle buses provided service along the route until normal Muni service resumed at 6:30 p.m.

Johnson encourages BART passengers to remain aware of their surroundings as they commute over the next month.

“Report unsafe behavior, do not confront protesters,” Johnson said. “Stay out of harm’s way.”

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier said BART and transit officials as well as law enforcement regularly monitor sites where they know there’s activity about disturbances or possible disturbances.

“And they came across a Website that pretty well spelled out what was supposed to be an action today, and I think they found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Matier.

Matier added that at that point BART officials played it safe, took action and let the public know.

Although there were no demonstrations, he said that in a sense, the protesters got their way.

“They’re certainly getting the attention again,” said Matier.

BART Passengers can report suspicious or unsafe behavior by calling (510) 464-7000 or by locating an intercom.

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

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