The Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Chapter has sent the following letter to BART’s board of directors:
- Dear Directors: The Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee condemns the wrongful treatment of journalists by BART police during the Sept. 8, 2011, protest at Powell Station.
- The Committee requests acknowledgment of BART police’s error, assurances that such actions will never be taken again, and new training for officers to ensure that their interactions with the press remain appropriate and lawful.
- The actions of BART police on Sept. 8 are both serious and numerous and should be addressed by the Board. Most disturbing are the allegations of David Morse, a veteran Indybay.org reporter who goes by the nom de plume “Dave Id.” Mr. Morse alleges that as he was newsgathering, BART Deputy Police Chief Dan Hartwig singled him out for immediate arrest by pointing in his direction and saying, “him.”
- Mr. Morse was the first of several people to be arrested in such a manner that night. He believes that he was singled out because of numerous articles critical of BART police that he has published since the Jan. 1, 2009, killing of Oscar Grant.
- Mr. Morse has reported that Deputy Chief Hartwig knows that he is a journalist, and he also notes that upon being isolated from the main group of detainees he was asked by another officer whether he was “Dave Id.” If Mr. Morse is correct that he was targeted for arrest based on articles critical of BART police, such action would constitute a grave violation of the First Amendment.
- Additionally, BART police unnecessarily detained reporters regardless of whether they displayed police or non-police press credentials. In certain cases, BART police refused to release journalists even after being informed that they were present to document the protest on behalf of media outlets. For example, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Vivian Ho was placed in handcuffs after officers were made aware that she was present at the demonstration solely in her capacity as a journalist.
- After roughly 30 minutes, BART police made the decision to release journalists who possessed San Francisco Police Department credentials. However, these journalists were not allowed to remain on the scene. And, in a highly unusual move, BART police directed SFPD officers to confiscate these journalists’ credentials, an unnecessary and seemingly punitive action that SFPD media relations director Troy Dangerfield later described as an error that violated SFPD protocol.