I took BART to San Francisco on Saturday - I was to meet a friend at the Civic Center at 5.30p.m.
I changed at MacArthur Station for the San Francisco train. It was crowded, but I did find a seat next to a window, and, as usual, began to read. The train got fuller as more people got on at the Oakland stations. Just after West Oakland I glanced up from my kindle and saw all the passengers looking at their different devices, cords of ear buds dangled around necks, the asian woman next to me was engrossed in listening to something on her phone - no one made any eye contact with anyone else. Suddenly out of nowhere a woman stood up in the middle of the aisle - she had her back to us, but I saw she was wearing black pants, and a black hoodie and had a black backpack on. She was holding a sign which from our section could not be seen. I saw one woman who was holding her bike hand her some money. Then the woman turned our way - the cardboard sign read, "Broke and Hungry" "Please donate money for food tonight." She had on glasses and looked kind of squirrelly - all she did was hold up the sign, she was not hurting anyone. Suddenly a man came up behind her - he appeared to have had a bit too much to drink, and looked rather unkempt. From behind her he said very loudly"hey, you are not allowed to do that, it is illegal." Everyone was now looking in their direction, devices forgotten. Then he said "get off the train" and she said "I can't, the doors are shut." He then grabbed her from behind and began to push her toward the back doors and he shouted, "Get off the fucking train." At this a number of young men got up and went after them. They all disappeared through the doors on to the next carriage. The woman next to me raised her eyebrows and shrugged, people turned in their direction, and the train continued until it reached Embarcadero. The doors opened and a crowd began to form near the doors of the carriage they had disappeared into. Our driver announced that we would be waiting for BART police to arrive and then he thanked the passengers who had held the suspect down and prevented him from getting away. After about 10 minutes a police man got on to our carriage and asked what had happened - we told him as best we could, and then he said 'but where is the victim - what does she look like?" Apparently during the fuss and commotion she had run away. Eventually we were on our way again, and everyone returned to their devices as if nothing had happened. The woman next to me raised her eyebrows and smiled, and I smiled back.