S.F. subway system admits cutting cellphone service to stop planned protest
Demonstrators shut down a BART station in July to protest the shooting death of 45-year-old Charles Hill.
August 13th, 2011
07:36 PM ET

S.F. subway system admits cutting cellphone service to stop planned protest

In a controversial move that has riled up free speech advocates, San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system said it cut off cellphone signals at “select” stations in response to a planned protest this week.

“BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform,” the transit agency said in a statement on its website Friday.

BART said it took the actions because protesters said they “would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police.”

Demonstrators had planned a rally to bring attention to a number of transit police officer shootings, the latest one resulting in the death of 45-year-old Charles Hill, who was shot last month after a confrontation with officers.

The transit agency said protests during rush hour endangered the safety of commuters and employees.

“A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators,” the agency said.

The incident happened Thursday, the same day that British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a crackdown on social media to quell riots.

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media," Cameron said Thursday during an address to Parliament. "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them."

Protesters in San Francisco have used websites and social media to organize demonstrations, including a rally last month that shut down a subway stop.

On Saturday, a BART director said the cellphone shutdown was not authorized by higher-ups and was under investigation, according to the Bay Citizen newspaper. “This is a transit agency, and our job is not to censor people,” BART official Lynette Sweet was quoted as saying.

The ACLU also denounced the cellphone shutdown, likening it to strong-arm tactics used by other governments.

“Shutting down access to mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests, whether it’s halfway around the world or right here at home,” the ACLU of Northern California said on its website.

The petition site, Care2.com, started an online petition titled “BART: Stay Out of Our Cell Phone Service!” On Saturday evening the site had more than doubled its signature goal of 1,000.

Also the hacktivist group Anonymous said it would be targeting BART on Monday to retaliate, several news sites reported Saturday.

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Filed under: Justice • U.S. • Crime • San Francisco
soundoff (486 Responses)
  1. Dana Lee

    In an emergency you can use http://www.democri-c.com

    for the iphone, Ipod and IPAD and

    http://hackerdemia.com/auto-BAHN/android/current/autobahn.apk

    For any Android device.

    They are emergency mobile phone services apps that cannot be shut down by anybody.

    Pass this on...

    August 15, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Porter Sanson

    In an emergency you can use http://www.democri-c.com

    for the iphone, Ipod and IPAD and

    http://hackerdemia.com/auto-BAHN/android/current/autobahn.apk

    For any Android device.

    They are emergency mobile phone services apps that cannot be shut down by anybody.

    Pass this on...

    August 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Auria Lagura

    Not everyone wants to protest. Peaceful protesting is not a problem, unfortunately so often, there come those who could care less about non protesters. They show no respect for peace and little consideration for those who choose not to join in their "cause". The public has a right to safety during times of protest, no matter what the cause. The police have a duty to keep the general public safe..

    August 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DARRELL BEZET

    O IT,S COMEING ALL RIGHT GO ANONYMOUS, TAKE OUR U.S.A. BACK IN JESUS HOLY NAME LORD OF LORD,S AMEN

    August 16, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. DARRELL BEZET

    BLUEMOONDROP SOMEONE WILL BE RIGHT WITH YOU.,JUST HOLD THAT THOUGHT!!!!

    August 16, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dolpine bay

    To all the whiners crying faul on Bart all I can say is this, "Don't tase me man"

    August 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
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