Homeland Security systematizing-federalizing the police repression of BART protests

August 30, 2011

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Justice Department, Homeland Security personnel present at #OpBART protests

Officers from a Department of Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response unit in the Civic Center BART station on August 29, 2011. photo by Geoff King

Amongst the dozens of riot gear-clad San Francisco and BART police officers that have packed Downtown San Francisco streets during the OpBART protests for the past three Mondays, you may have spotted some officers wearing khaki slacks and bulletproof vests, a far cry from the heavy duty helmets and body armor worn by officers from other agencies.

Those lightly-clad officers were part of a Department of Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) unit, an anti-terror unit charged with protecting transportation infrastructure from potential acts of terrorism. VIPR units are run by the Transportation Security Administration. According to the TSA’s website, VIPR teams are terrorism deterrents that “a random, announced, high-visibility surge into a transit agency, in addition to enhancing agency resources during special events.” VIPR teams have been deployed more than 50 times since the program began in 2005, and regularly patrol New York’s Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuter systems. Continue reading