Five Arrests in “Bike Spill” Shutdown of Arco/BP Station
by Michael Steinberg / IndyBay.org / Aug 21st, 2010
SUMMARY: Five people were arrested Friday for locking down in an entrance and exit to an Arco/BP gas station at the corner of Fell and Divisadero in San Francisco. The protesters called their action a “bike spill.” They chained themselves to bicycles and laid in the car entrance and exit ways, effectively shutting down the gas station.
A San Francisco group on August 20th – calling itself Fix Fell – carried out a protest at an Arco/BP gas station for the 11th consecutive Friday evening.
BP owns Arco.
A bike lane runs down Fell right past the station, and drivers eager to chug on the 3.09 fuel often block the lane as they line up across it while entering the station. This forces bicyclists out into onrushing traffic and has caused numerous accidents and injuries.
The actions have also been in response to BP’s gargantuan oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and seek to make connections between US addictions to oil at home, and the violence endemic in its Oil War disasters in the Middle East as well.
And so this evening four demonstrators brought their “bike spill” into the entrance and exit on Fell Street to the station, and also brought business at the station to a halt.
At tonight’s action, Josh Hart, one of the organizers of the weekly protests, said:
“the problem is the prioritizing of access to gasoline over the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.”
He called the city’s recent painting of the Fell bike lane green “like putting lipstick on a pig.” Because cars still lie up across the lane, Hart said, “Until we have a separate safe lane for bikes, the problem is not fixed.”
After Hart and SF Supervisor Ross Mikarimi both spoke of correcting the problem on Fell and “creating a safe green city,” two people carried bike frames locked together into the Fell entrance to the station, “spilled” them across the entrance, then lay down too, and locked themselves to the bikes and each other. The most striking of their accessories were heavy U-locks around their necks that connected to the spilled bike assemblies.
Immediately all traffic turning into the station from Fell came to a complete stop. As bike spiller Lindsey observed,
“We’re spilling our bikes on the property of oil company spillers and the government. The longer we keep this entrance closed, the safer for bikes in the bike lane.”
Looking down Fell, you could see that the lane was perfectly clear, with no motor vehicles swerving across it to get into BP’s station.
The San Francisco Police Force presence grew from one to over a dozen, as the station pumps remained idle. Two more bike spillers occupied the exit on Fell, while a half dozen other protesters blocked the entrance on Divisadero.
Eventually two cops posted at the Divis entrance forced the activists there aside to allow vehicles to suck it up at the pumps. Later, other cops recklessly let gas guzzlers turn in off Fell, while the two spillers were still locked down in the entrance.
When I crossed Fell to get a look from the other side of the street, I got a hint of the public consciousness that has grown in response to the continued protests.
As two women walked by, one said to the other, “They’ve been doing this every day.”
“Really. Every day?
Another woman commented to a friend, “It’s because the cars block the bike lane.”
The growing police force tried to isolate the spillers from their supporters, forbidding them from stepping the BP property, getting too close to the spillers, or blocking traffic from the sidewalk (?). Their intimidation tactics got mixed results, at best.
When cops allowed a white SUV to start to turn into the concrete Fell entrance, organizer Josh Hart suddenly sat down beside the two spillers, blocking the behemoth. The officer in charge shouted, “Arrest that man!” and two of his minion seized Hart, dragged him over to a police van in the lot, handcuffed him, and put him in the back, to the cheers of supporters.
The cops ordered to spillers to move, but when all four refused, they cited them with misdemeanor charges.
Some time later police began cutting apart the bike assemblies of the Fell entrance occupiers. But they were stymied by the U-locks around the spillers’ necks, as well as by another U-lock connecting their two assemblies.
It got cold and then dark. Then an SFFD fire engine marked “Heavy Rescue” pulled into the station, taking up most of the lot’s space. Firefighters cut the U-locks, the police cleared away the four spillers, and took them to the cop van to join Josh Hart.
Ironically, the combined presence of the SFPD and SFFD at the Arco/BP station closed down the business once again, as the 9 o’clock hour arrived.
Michael Steinberg is a former OBcean who now lives and writes from San Francisco. He can be reached at blackrainpress @ hotmail.com .