1144 GMT December 12, 2019
The official promised an investigation after an outcry from people who assailed enforcement of a no-food rule as racist, The Associated Press reported.
More than two dozen people staged an “eat-in” at a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station over the weekend and others continue to protest the November 4 encounter, which ended with a 31-year-old man who was headed to work in handcuffs and unable to leave until he had told BART police his name.
BART officials said Monday that an independent auditor was investigating. Eating is not allowed in paid portions of stations to maintain cleanliness, but the policy shouldn’t be used to prevent people from getting to work on time, they said.
“We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely,” said Bob Powers, BART’s general manager. “I’m disappointed how the situation unfolded.”
A 15-minute video of the encounter between an unidentified white BART police officer and Steve Foster of Concord spread on social media, drawing angry rebukes from people who say the police reaction was ridiculous and racist.
The video shows the officer holding on to Foster’s backpack and telling him he’s not free to go until he identifies himself. He tells Foster he is resisting arrest.
“You have no right to be touching my [bag],” Foster said.
“You have no right to eat a sandwich on BART,” the officer said.
The conflict at the station in the East Bay city of Pleasant Hill goes on for about eight minutes, until backup officers arrive and handcuff Foster. They lead him away as morning commuters look on.
BART officials said the officer was passing by on another call when he asked Foster not to eat. When the officer walked by again and saw Foster still eating, he went to issue a citation.
Foster said Monday that he knew eating was not allowed on trains but did not realize it was banned on platforms. People often drink and eat on platforms and even inside the trains.
When the officer said he couldn’t eat on BART, Foster assumed it was a warning not to get on the train with food and hurried to finish the breakfast sandwich.
“I picked up my bag and was getting in line, and he just grabbed my bag and said, ‘You’re not going anywhere, you’re going to jail,’” Foster said.
Foster said he felt singled out because of his race and plans to challenge the police citation. It calls for him to pay a $250 fine or do 48 hours of community service.