Bloody Fight on AC Transit

Yesterday our Twitter follower wirelesschunk sent us a link to a video of a fight on AC Transit between two men that got so gnarly that blood was all over the seats. The situation started with what seemed like normal conversation and quickly escalated to the men punching each other. It’s hard to see who threw the first punch, but Ok, I watched the video a few more times and it looked like the young black man threw a punch first, but I’m not sure it matters a whole lot in situations like this.

SFist reports that the argument started when the older white man asked the young black man how much he’d charge for a shoe shine, then escalated from there.

Near the end of the video you can hear a woman mutter, “It’s just like on the bus with the black and Asian women!”

Boy, do we remember that one.

In running a transit-related website, we’ve seen what seems like an unusually high level of hostility on the bus. When we posted the video of a black woman and an Asian woman fighting on Muni, it caused such a storm and gave us a lot to think about, namely: should we be posting these videos at all? The racial tension in the fight between the women was palpable, and we interviewed the rider who broke up the fight to get a sense of what was going on. If the report is correct that the older white man asked the young black man about a shoe shine, the racial tension in this fight could be just as explosive.

As much as we all might have our complaints about the bus, riding public transit is a shared community experience — an idea that is the basis of why we started Muni Diaries. So what is with the hostility and intolerance that we seem to encounter more on the bus than anywhere else? We see many positive stories about sharing the public transit experience, but we’ve also seen our fair share of intolerance (chicken story, anyone?)

You’ll notice that we included a link to the video but refrained from embedding the video itself (and yes, we run stories about AC Transit when we get them). As a moderator and editor of the site, I continue to wonder where the line is between creating a space to share transit stories and a space to share gratuitous violence. My worst fear is that videos like this might be creating a new genre of voyeuristic, violent “transit porn.” Do you think videos like this have a place in your daily reading — do people need to see it to understand the tension and violence around us, or are we desensitizing viewers by showing it?

And we realize that public transit isn’t the exclusive domain of hostility and intolerance. But it does seem to be a main venue for the boiling over of violence. Why?

– Eugenia

15 comments

  • Bernie

    Transit porn? perhaps… I do not mind the videos themselves, but definitely the short-sighted and occasionally bigoted responses (e.g., in SFGate) trouble me.

    This post got me thinking about how these public transit-based altercations are pretty analogous to standard cases of road rage. Take all the highway-based altercations that arise due to some foolish act of hostility (intended or otherwise), and imagine how many more incidents there would be if people were in closer confines and could actually HEAR what others are saying to or about them. (and of course, imagine if other drivers had the penchant for video-recording these incidents…)

    Public transit might just be facilitating these altercations by increasing the likelihood of these occasionally hostile, but often innocuous interactions. Add on top of that, people of lesser means (read: people of color) are likelier to be bus-bound, and that might only exacerbate these expressions of hostility and intolerance.

    • eugenia

      Bernie, I like your idea of the public transit–based fights being analogous to road rage – I think being in close confines of the bus is definitely a significant factor in that you can’t just walk away.

  • JC

    I love the blog any which way. If I had editorial input, I agree with you, I wouldn’t show them. It’s one thing if there’s some sort of public service motive which would be furthered by showing a particular video. In the AC Transit case, I think it verges on what you called it – transit porn and definitely not entertainment. I applaud the choice.

    As to the why transit is more hostile, this is a tricky subject. Rather than speculate, I wonder whether transit is more hostile or whether the advent of the phone with video camera/flip video just means that we’re capturing it when it happens as compared to, say 5-10 years ago.

    • eugenia

      Oh, but Tricky Subject is my favorite subject!

      You make a good point about the advent of the video camera phone/flip video – when I was watching the video I could not believe that all of this was being recorded, quite clearly at that. The videographer didn’t seem to be afraid that the two men might turn around and say, “Hey stop recording this!” followed by a couple of punches. Now that it’s more likely to be videotaped doing anything stupid on the bus, I wonder if that discourages people from acting out, or quite the opposite?

      • JC

        Never thought of that possibility.

        I’d love to use their power for good and try to deter non-emergency cell phone calls taken or placed on the bus. (People who think that people wouldn’t blab to their hearts content on a plane if allowed to do so by the FAA have clearly never ridden MUNI.)

    • Surely you’re right about our access to these kinds of incidents. But I just get the sense (based on, shall we say, “older” folks I talk with) that it just didn’t use to be this way. Not here in SF, where people from all ethnicities have been mixing for quite some time. It all reminds me a little of a recent post by SFGate’s Mark Morford, about how we nowadays really love to bitch about everything. I guess I’m veering off-topic somewhat. But in my mind, it all goes back to that sense of intolerance. I’m totally guilty of it all the time, although to lesser degrees than the men in that video.

  • muni_lover

    You have any interesting two part question asking if violence really is increasing as much as you think and if it is appropriate to blog about it.

    For the first part, ooooooo heck yeah! I really do think people are one thin line away from a UFC smackdown more than ever before and especially on the buses. I also think camera phones might actually increase the posturing or quick step over that thin line precisely because (Jerry Springer style) they dont want to be punked by not taking care of business while such large numbers of people are watching (on the bus) and will be watching(here or youtube). Also, I think Bernie and Jeff are right too that it is a concentrated road rage and that people love to bitch more than ever. But I also think that many many people are weaker in character than ever before and have this inflated unearned ego that bloats the sense of entitlement….where else is this more critical judgmentalism or this greedier selfishness coming from?

    As for the second part, I really enjoyed the dialogue after the fight on the 30 and richness of it as well as the dichotomy of the snarky or bigoted responses against the thoughtful and well supported arguments. Viva community! And I applaud both your self examination and your choice to show the first video and refrain from the second.

  • I’m not sure there’s a dispute over who threw the first punch (never condoned from anyone here at Muni Diaries). But this post on SFist seems to at least clarify how the altercation got started (the white guy asking the black guy for a shoe shine). I appreciated that bit of context, myself.

  • loren

    regardless of who started what, and who threw the first punch…that old guy is spry! DAMN! i would not want to cross him, he clearly knows what he’s doing. and i’m glad that this would make people think twice about messing with the “elderly”, if nothing else.

    • i’m not so sure what the lesson is here, loren. especially after learning that the old guy taunted the young guy verbally, i’m just bummed out that the thing happened at all. not sure what the take-away is.

      • loren

        i’m not entirely sure either, i’m kind of left grasping in the dark. ideally, none of the exchange would have taken place. it sucks that people are so angry these days… sometimes the feeling is palpable. in this case it was an inexcusable extreme.

  • AC BUS RIDER

    You say, “It’s hard to see who threw the first punch…”. Are you crazy? There is absolutely no question who threw the first punch. It was the younger man. If you can’t see this on the video you need to see an eye doctor. This is not an opinion, it’s a simple fact.

    • eugenia

      At 1:38 it looks like the young man went up to the old man to the front of the bus and threw a punch at him – I watched this a few more times and that’s what it looks like. I don’t think this should have ever escalated into violence but if this situation were to end up in court, it could be a claim of self defense?

      • AC BUS RIDER

        Yes, it “looks like” like the younger man threw the first punch. Why does it “look like” this?
        Because it’s exactly what happened. Jesus, do you live in a fricking PC bubble?

  • Dang…that video was intense. but really, if you’re going to throw a punch at some, you have to be stupid as hell to not expect some type of retaliation.

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