A man was arrested at the Bay Fair BART station Tuesday, after he allegedly battered a patron who refused to give him money.
The incident was detailed in a Facebook post published by the transit agency Tuesday evening. According to BART, "an aggressive panhandler battered a passenger after the passenger refused to give him money" at BART's Bay Fair Station Tuesday.
"The suspect tried to run off but our officer detained him," BART says. "The victim identified the suspect and placed him under citizen's arrest for aggressive panhandling and for battery. The suspect was on probation and he was booked into Santa Rita Jail."
He was also "issued a prohibition order which means he can not return to BART," they say.
According to BART, while "panhandling is considered free speech under the law," "aggressive panhandling" such as the type alleged Tuesday "is a violation of the penal code and is not tolerated." That assertion is already being questioned by some respondents to BART's Facebook post, including concerned citizen Ken Meeuwse, who says "Wrong, BART. Panhandling is free speech WITH certain restrictions. BART is a transportation facility...a 'nonpublic forum'...especially inside the paid areas, on platforms and trains."
Citing what appears to be an unofficial publication called "A Guide to Regulating Panhandling," Meeuwse claims that "When one is a paying passenger, the express purpose of these areas is to transit from point 'A' to point 'B', without being harassed. It does not have to be 'aggressive' panhandling for BART to enforce in these areas. Period."
"Why is BART's public relations gaslighting us by avoiding their failure to enforce on panhandling generally and implying it has to be 'aggressive' before they can do anything?" Meeuwse asks in a subsequent comment, calling BART's announcement of the arrest "Incompetent messaging and nonsense."
According to BART, the fact that the victim remained on the scene and cooperated allowed them to make the arrest. "Unless police witness something," BART writes, "we need our riders to provide a statement and identify the suspect as the right person."