A pair of videos has been making the rounds of a BART police officer having a heated interaction with a rider whom he wanted to cite for eating on the Pleasant Hill BART platform earlier this week. The rider, who is black, balked at being singled out, and the officer proceeded to put him in handcuffs for resisting arrest.
BART police don't exactly have a sterling reputation when it comes to the treatment of black people in the Bay Area, so this rather silly citation and brief arrest has understandably gone locally viral, with Facebook videos of the incident posted by the rider, Steven Foster (though under the name Bill Gluckman), having received around 50,000 views.*
The incident happened Monday morning at 8 a.m., and the officer, whose nametag says D. McCormick, can be seen taking Foster aside and telling him he's being cited for eating a breakfast sandwich in the paid area of the BART station. "You're eating," Officer McCormick says. "It's against the law." A friend captured the exchange on video, as well as a subsequent exchange she had with the officer while he was writing the citation.
Foster asked why he was singled out, and asks the officer to let go of his backpack, which the officer was holding onto with a finger. When asked if he's going to cooperate, Foster says, "Are you going to let go of my bag?" The officer then says, "You're going to jail." And Foster says, "For eating a fucking sandwich?"
It appears Foster wasn't taken to jail, but he was handcuffed and cited at the station. As KRON 4 reports, the incident escalated because Foster refused to give his name or show identification to the officer.
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost confirms the details of the incident to KRON 4 and says, "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 not providing his identification which is needed for a citation and is why the engagement lasted as long as it did." Trost said that an independent police auditor is reviewing the case.
BART also issued a statement to NBC Bay Area saying, "He was cited for eating which is a violation of state law. It isn’t just a policy or ordinance, it is penal code."
On Facebook, Foster writes, "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."
In the second video, the officer explains that he had come to the platform because of a report of an intoxicated woman, whom he did not find. When asked why he then decided to detain Foster, he says, "He was right in front of me."
It remains the case the majority of instances of people drinking and eating on BART — let alone smoking, openly doing drugs, etc. — go unpunished, so obviously it feels unfair. Naturally the incident has sparked plenty of social media commentary.
SF's Coalition on Homelessness chimed in on Twitter today 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.— Coalition on Homelessness (@TheCoalitionSF) November 8, 2019
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
Absurd. I see people eat on mass transit EVERY DAY. Yes, it is against the law. No, you shouldn't be arrested for it.— TheRealJohnSeal (@TheRealJohnSeal) November 8, 2019
VIDEO: Man handcuffed, cited at Pleasant Hill BART for eating sandwich https://t.co/oqVcIhW4Tr
*This post has been corrected to show that the detained man is named Steven Foster.