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BART Apologizes After Police Detain A Man For Eating A Sandwich On A Train Platform

The general manager of BART, the San Francisco Bay Area’s public transit system, has issued a public apology after a viral video showed police officers handcuffing a man who had been eating a sandwich on a train platform. 

BART’s Bob Powers said in his statement on Monday that he was “disappointed” with how the situation at the Pleasant Hill station in the East Bay unfolded. He had watched the video showing the widely criticized interaction on Nov. 4 between BART police officers and a man identified by local media outlets as Steve Foster of Concord, California.

video clip posted on Facebook begins as a white officer grabs a backpack belonging to Foster, who is Black, and tells him, “I just explained to you that you are detained... you are detained and you’re not free to go.” 

Foster maintains a grip on his backpack as he pleads with the officer to let his bag go.

The two men then argue, with Foster accusing the officer of singling him out.

“You’re eating. It’s against the law,” the officer replies.

Powers said in his statement that BART’s policies on eating in its “paid areas” are “related to the cleanliness of our stations and system.”

He said the officer claimed he asked Foster to not eat on the train platform as he was responding to another call. 

“It should have ended there, but it didn’t. Mr. Foster did not stop eating and the officer moved forward with the process of issuing him a citation,” Powers stated. “The individual refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement.”

Powers later added that the officer was “doing his job” but noted that “context is key.”

“Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation,” he continued, before adding that officers should “read each situation.”

“I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video,” Powers said. 

Elsewhere in the video, Foster and the person filming the video accuse the officer of harassment, claiming other people often consume food and beverages on BART properties.

Minutes later, the video shows three new police officers arrive, with one officer immediately instructing Foster to turn around as they handcuff him. The officers take Foster away from the platform area in handcuffs, instructing him to sit down on a bench before then taking him to another location.

When the person filming asks the officers where they were taking Foster, one officer replies, “It’s a little loud out here... he’s under arrest...” 

Foster appears to respond to another officer, saying, “I didn’t resist arrest. It’s all on camera.”

Police officers are then seen at the end of the video taking Foster to a room with a closed door.

In an email statement to HuffPost, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said that Foster was not arrested but that he was “lawfully handcuffed when he refused to provide identification.”

“The officer said he was being detained until he gave his ID as that is considered resisting,” Trost added. “Identification is needed for the infraction citation. Once he gave his name, he was given the infraction citation and released. There was never an arrest or booking.”

Foster did not immediately return a request for comment.

Foster told local news station KRON4 that he was not satisfied with Powers’ apology and that he believed the officer who detained him should be disciplined. 

“I feel like if you don’t know how to approach people in that field of work, then maybe you shouldn’t be in that position,” he said.

The video sparked outrage on social media, with people arguing it was an example of police disproportionately targeting and using excessive force against Black people

Residents in the area held an “eat-in” protest at the Pleasant Hill BART station over the weekend, with plans for another protest Saturday

Janice Li, a member of the BART board of directors, attended the first protest on Nov. 9, calling the Nov. 4 incident “extremely troubling” in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner.

“To see yet another young Black man impacted by law enforcement like this is extremely troubling to me,” she said. “This is a question of what we are putting our BART police towards. We know how to make the system better and safer, and this ain’t it.”

Powers noted in his statement that an independent police auditor will conduct an investigation.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.