A black man who was waiting to catch a train to work was handcuffed and cited for eating a breakfast sandwich on a train station platform in California last Monday, sparking protests and "eat-ins" at the station over the weekend.
The backlash prompted Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) general manager Bob Powers to issue an apology Monday, saying that while the officer who stopped and detained the man was doing his job, he was "disappointed [with] how the situation unfolded."
In a now-viral video posted to Facebook on Friday, BART police officers are seen detaining the man, identified in local media reports as Steve Foster, who was eating on the platform at the Pleasant Hill station.
The video shows the officer holding on to the man's backpack as the two argue.
"You are detained and you're not free to go," the officer says.
"You came up here and fucked with me," Foster says. "You singled me out, out of all these people."
"You're eating," the officer says.
"Yeah, so what," Foster responds.
"It's against the law," the officer says. "I tried to explain that to you ... I have the right to detain you."
The two continue to argue while the officer waits for backup. Foster's friend, who filmed the video, points out that there aren't any signs that say passengers can't eat on the platform.
"Why is there a store downstairs selling food if we're not allowed to eat up here?" she says. "Where is there a sign up here that says we can't eat on the platform? We know we can't eat on the train."
"I do this every morning, bro," Foster adds.
At one point, after the officer says he's being detained, Foster says, "I don't feel detained. I feel harassed. That's what I feel."
After a little more than eight minutes, three other officers show up and handcuff Foster before walking him down the platform and through the station.
Foster was cited for the infraction and released after providing his name to police, BART spokesperson Alicia Trost told BuzzFeed News.
"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," Powers said in a statement. "I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video."
Foster did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.
"I’m definitely upset, mad, a little frustrated, angry about it," he told KGO-TV. "I hope they start focusing on stuff that actually matters like people shooting up dope, hopping the BART, people getting stabbed."
Reaction to the encounter was a mix of disbelief and anger.
The transit agency's independent police auditor is investigating the incident, which has sparked protests and "eat-ins." The officer who detained Foster has not been placed on leave, Trost said.
"Eat a McMuffin on BART: They Can't Stop Us All," one Facebook event for Saturday stated.
According to BART, eating in the "paid area" of the transit stations is banned, meaning that once passengers go through the ticketing gate, they are not allowed to eat.
"As a transportation system, our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system," Powers said in the statement. "This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday."
Powers said the officer asked Foster not to eat while passing by for another call. When the officer walked by again and saw that he was still eating, the officer began to issue a citation to Foster, who would not provide identification.
"The officer was doing his job, but context is key," Powers said. "We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely."