McMuffin-gate — or whatever we're calling it — continues today as we learn that Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris is filing a lawsuit against BART on behalf of Steven Foster, the man detained last week by a BART police officer for eating a breakfast sandwich.
Burris is expected to formally announce the suit at a press conference at 2 p.m. Thursday, and in an advance statement he suggests not only that Foster was singled out unfairly by BART police, but also that he was mistreated.
"The detaining officers referred to Foster with names like 'stupid' and 'idiot,'" Burris says in the statement, obtained by KRON 4 and ABC 7. Also, Burris says that officers "falsely stated that Foster resisted arrest" and a different officer "misrepresented that Foster matched the description of someone causing a disturbance."
Burris further contends that officers "engaged in racial profiling and selective law enforcement," and he says in the statement, "BART patrons routinely eat sandwiches and other food on the platform and BART trains without any law enforcement intervention, chastisements or other admonishments by police."
Burris is best known for representing plaintiffs in the infamous Oakland "Riders" case against the Oakland Police Department, but he also represented the mother and daughter of Mario Woods, the man fatally shot by a BART police officer in 2009, winning a $2.8 million settlement for them.
We know from video taken at the scene of Foster's citation, shot by Foster's friend, that the BART officer said he had come to Pleasant Hill Station in search of a female suspect who was reportedly publicly intoxicated on the morning of November 4. He never found this woman, but did spot Foster eating a sandwich on the platform and reportedly told him to put the food away. According to BART officials, the officer moved to detain Foster after he refused to put the sandwich away, and then handcuffed him when Foster refused to provide identification for a citation.
Media coverage of the incident and a subsequent public outcry led BART's new General Manager Bob Powers to issue an apology on Monday, saying he was "disappointed how the situation unfolded." Powers also added that Foster had "cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement." Later on Monday, Foster publicly rejected Powers' apology.
A McMuffin-eating protest is now planned for Saturday at Pleasant Hill Station.