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Vandalism at San Francisco transit station linked to protest

September 9, 2011 |  4:29 pm

San Francisco Police officers don helmets at the Powell Street BART and MUNI station following a protest. 
Authorities say they have linked an attack by vandals on an outlying San Francisco transit station Thursday night to an earlier protest downtown that brought out police in riot gear and ended in two dozen arrests.

Shortly before 10 p.m., 10 to 12 hammer-wielding men in black hooded sweatshirts smashed fare gates at the Glen Park Bay Area Rapid Transit station toward the southern edge of the city. They also spray-painted "Charles Hill" and the first several letters of the name Oscar Grant on the ground.

Hill was an intoxicated, knife-wielding transient shot to death by a BART police officer July 3. Grant, who was unarmed,  was shot to death by a different BART officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. In recent months, the two deaths have sparked a string of demonstrations that have snarled commutes.

Hours before the vandals struck, several dozen demonstrators protesting Hill's and Grant’s deaths converged on the Powell Street BART station during the evening rush hour.

BART police arrested about half of them on charges of interfering with the safe operations of a rail line, said BART spokeswoman Luna  Salaver, adding that the station was closed for about two hours.

“BART officials believe there is a direct correlation between the act of vandalism and the Thursday protest,” Salaver said. “There were individuals spotted at the Powell Street protest wearing similar clothing” as the vandals.

Salaver said the protest caused “no significant delays” in train service and “customers were not impacted” by the later vandalism.

“The acts of vandalism are just another way to try to disrupt BART’s main goal of getting our customers where they need to go,” Salaver said. “Fortunately, we were able to fix the fare-collection equipment that they tried to destroy on Thursday, and we were able to do it before start of service today.”

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 -- Maria L. La Ganga in San Francisco

Photo: San Francisco police don helmets at the Powell Street BART and MUNI station. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / San Francisco Chronicle

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