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BART Recruits Loyal Riders For Scripted Support At News Conference

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A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) worker (L) tries to move demonstrators that are trying to keep a train from leaving the Civic Center station on August 15, 2011 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) worker (L) tries to move demonstrators that are trying to keep a train from leaving the Civic Center station on August 15, 2011 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Bay Area Rapid Transit’s media-management policies are in the spotlight again following a report in the Bay Citizen  that the agency tried to recruit loyal riders and give them a script to read at a press conference ahead of a planned protest on August 11th.

The idea was reportedly to have the riders speak positively about BART, and against the protests, in order to sway public opinion in BART’s favor as it faced criticism over the shooting death by BART police of a homeless man at the Civic Center Station in July.

The plan, according to the Bay Citizen, was thought of by spokesman Linton Johnson, who also took credit for shutting down cell phone service that same day.

In the emails sent to staff, Johnson apparently wrote that BART needed to get a large group of loyal riders to participate in the news conference. He also suggested hiring cars to ferry the customers to and from the news conference, in case the protests delayed them.

BART spokesman Jim Allison told the website this week that the agency called riders who had themselves previously called BART in support of its actions. However, only one person agreed to come to the press conference, and no one quoted him.

CBS 5 spoke with BART board president Bob Franklin, who said BART should not provide the media with supporters, nor pay for their transportation. “This is not the type of tactic that I support,” said Franklin.

The transit agency has been hit with weekly protests over the fatal shooting and the interruption of cell phone service.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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