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: Crime • Justice • San Francisco • U.S.
soundoff (486 Responses)
  1. Big Brother is watching

    Ahhh but is there a larger violation afoot here. See BART knew exactly where when and how these protests were going to take place. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out not only did they unlawfully cut the service but they were monitoring the cell users as well think about that the next time you use your cell phone.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Luda

    OMG, the Communist in Beijing was doing the right thing after all!!!

    August 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Humber

    I was gratified to realize that plans exist for riotous situations.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Red Blooded Democrat

      What riot? Please explain.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick s.

      Humber might I remind you that this country was born of protest, riotous acts and eventually revolution. You must be one of those indifferent Americans that allowed our freedoms to be taken away. Go check your first amendment right...the right to assemble and protest FREELY! Why don't you go live in CHINA! Revolution is happening all over the world in response to the corruption of governments and when America's freedoms and RIGHTS are being stripped away I applaud people who want to protest as long as we are not harming our own or just commiting criminal acts. You can't stifle the response to treasonous government!

      August 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Davethecanuck

      I've always enjoyed being drowned out and inconvenienced by the vocal minorities.
      I'm sure all the rush hour commuters wouldn't have minded delays being caused by those who felt the justice system didn't delivery the justice the protesters wanted.
      Eff the majority.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      Maybe if your officers were trained properly and were not killing people for not reason you wouldn't have a protest on your hands. People have the right to protest....don't like it? Don't give them a reason to have to protest. Obviously BART communications officer has little ugly mans complex and feels better when he uses his power in an illegal and unjust way. He should be charged for violating all of those peoples right to freedom of speech. And as far as protecting your customers....who was protecting your customers when your officers shot and killed them?

      August 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Davethecanuck

      You JJ, are gifted in the art of exaggeration and generalizations.
      I see the exception makes the rule in your oppression filled world.

      Why is a protestors right to protest more important than the commuters right to a safe ride home?
      Or are you simply writing the safety thing off as an excuse?
      It seems that the only thing that matters to you is what YOU personally believe in.
      Have you even considered that the both sides made wrong decisions at some point in all of this?

      Naw... to hard to stick it to the man that way... right?

      August 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Davethecanuck

      Rick S. = Super Patriot

      Everyone Else = People who should be living in China

      August 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    @Silver Wraith:

    I may have to get a new car myself.
    Car theives suck.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    @Silver Wraith:

    I may have to get a new car myself.
    Car thieves suck.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |

    YES , WE CAN...YES , WE CAN...WE WILL WIN IN WAR ON TERROR (30 whities or what are terrorists will never come back alive...thank you lord....aaamen).

    What do you mean tragedy! It was just a birthday present for planet apes president !!! That's all ! Feels great to flip hamburgers and hip hop atop of good news...makes you feel vibrant and energized !!!

    ARIZONA = UTOYA = GOVERNMENT‘S "AFTERLIFE" CASH & $$ FLASH MOB (there was no shooting in Utoya or Arizona, but instead tear gas and on faces of multiculturalism maniacs while calling you a terrorists) !!! stateofterror.blogspot.com/ or stateofterror.wordpress.com/

    avsecbostjan.blogspot.com/ or avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/

    Whitie is fighting war on terrorism just to come home and be pronounced as terrorist...turned in Timothy, jobless, homeless ...YESSS, WE CAN...YESSS, WE CAN...GABBY OPENED HER EYES (Obaminator’s psychotic speech in Tucson = failed “Apocalypse Now“)


    Don't worry O(s)bama, you have just saved USA what is lots of Dollars in your DEBT DEALS(DEAD AND ILL) as those best of America or Navy Seals would also grew older and then you already know how it goes !!!

    August 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Rensen

      Clearly the ramblings of a raving lunatic.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • aleutiaflyer

      Whoah Jackie. Please see a psychiatrist. You are really a prime candidate for a mental evaluation.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Bruce Cutlass

      What the hell are you babbling about?????

      August 15, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    Sorry for the double post.

    August 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mark

    @Terror Alert:
    What? What in the hell are you blathering on about? What kind of drug are you on that would make you think your post makes any sense?

    August 14, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Humber

    @ banasy:
    We'd see YOU if you were on a skateboard.
    Not enough of those wonderful people out there in the dark really liked Norma Desmond.

    August 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. D Heezzy

    @bud: I just tried googling Jehova and all it gave me was Jehovah, even my spell check doesn't recognize it. Maybe you should go blow your head off for being a stupid troll.

    August 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy©


    Not really sure how I should take that...

    August 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. D Heezzy

    After reading some of the names and comments by the pro-riot people here I've determined I'm on BART's side of the argument.. Poop Flinger, Mad Räpër and the rest of the lazy trash brigade are simply morons. How did all those years of law school work out for ya? If you had a degree in law and wanted to use public transportation then you'd hate smelly hippies clogging up your trip too.

    August 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick s.

      First amendment: right to free assembly(protest)! I'm just a little worried that people think protesting is a bad thing. Also, don't believe the story you get from the mainstream media. Propaganda is alive and well!!!

      August 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jon

    BART cops should be wearing SS uniforms or gestapo apparel...because that is about what they amount to. They are no better than either. This country is reminding me more and more of Syria and Iran every day....

    August 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick s.

      Maybe we should revolt!?!

      August 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Davethecanuck

      I also remember being unable to make apt comparisons when I was in elementary school.. keep working at it kid.

      Also, if you are serious about the Iran and Syria thing, you should tell your parents to take you out more...
      or to educate you more on Iran and Syria.

      August 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rob in FL

    Anonymous needs to target BART and the wireless companies that cooperated with these Nazi's. Wireless companies have been too cozy with government in illegally suppressing citizens rights, its time they learn their lesson.

    August 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jack Slade

    IT'S A FEDERAL CRIME. Recall a few years back when various theaters and restaurants took it upon themselves to jam cell phone signals as a "benefit" for their patrons? Well, many of those establishments were visited by large fines. And no, there is no distinction between "turning off service" and jamming:

    Section 333 of the Communications Act of 1934 states, "[n]o person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government." and Section 302(b) of the Communications Act provides that "[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section."

    BART's action was a violation of Federal Law. They may lease the tower locations underground for BART, but they are not a telecommunications provider. Even Telcos are subject to Federal Statute that says that only a duly authorized FEDERAL agency can, in an dire emergency as directed by the President of the United States, disrupt communications governed by the FCC. The Communications Act of 1934 specifically prohibits local or state agencies from using jamming devices, or other means to disrupt communications. This was upheld when CellAntenna tried to sue the Federal Government to say that the Homeland Security Act of 2002 superseded it, and they lost their case.

    Jack Slade

    August 15, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Davethecanuck

      Oh well.

      August 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
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