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. Jason

    They get away with doing this to people throughout the entire nation because they know that you will either get high and forget about it, zone out on Facebook, or engage in some other utterly contrived distraction to ensure everyone shuts up and just takes it up the ramp like the good little americans you are. If you fight back, you are labeled a terrorist or fear-monger by those who are so scared of their government and its power that they really don't mind taking it up the pipe if it "doesn't rock the boat."

    August 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. theboosh

    TO the ones here that spew "in order to protect the public good" Listen to you....... that phrase has been used before – stop the newspapers, TV, radio anything to prevent free press/communication. You are so smug now because, well it's not YOUR cause now – just wait until one is YOUR CAUSE. GET IT! It's the slow creep of rights erosion that you cavalierly disregard -and you call yourself a patriot of American ideals of the few freedoms that separate us from most of the world!

    August 13, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ny james

    stupid hippes.....go protest in a park...where you belong.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • theboosh

      Won't YOU miss social media when you are at the TeaBagger rally protesting thse bad Dems for wanting to cut Corp profits and can't call your Walmart wife to pick the cheese doodles.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mmmmm

    Oh please libraries jam cell phone all the time...and they don't even tellya!

    August 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John Q Public

    Interesting that the reporter didn't go so far as to pull up the law on interfering with cellular service. This is one reason that cellular jammers are illegal in this country without FCC approval etc.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mo Hamhead

    Vee are your gufernment!

    You vill obey!

    August 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Vuck vou!

      August 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Best gestapo tactics at work in BART.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    IT'S NOT about this one little 'gnat' of a story about cellular interuptions. It's about a nation of peoples who lack in self-control, nd therefor their governmant must make-up for with governmental controls. Control yourself, and the government will see no reason to control you.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • theboosh

      What a naive, non student of history!

      August 13, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poop Flinger

      COntrol yourself Philip. If we all thought like that we would still be under British Rule.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ZweiStein

      Jawohl, Herr Hitler!

      August 14, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Hoosier Hippie

    As soon as you hear or see the government use the words "For public safety" or "To protect National Security" it basically means "Sorry, your civil rights have been suspended",... and the people, like sheep, just move with the herd.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jehova

    But God abandoned you...

    August 13, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      No, God has not abandoned anyone–it was man who has turned their collective backs to God and stiffened their neck refusing to do what God said to do.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • 1fender

      And if I choose to do something other than what YOU say YOUR god wants, then what?

      Smite me? Oh Boy I am really scared!

      August 14, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • ZweiStein

      I never heard God say anything! But history is full of examples of this god you mention turning his back and allowing untold atrocities against people of all ages, creeds, color, and culture. He must enjoy the suffering.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Brizzle

      God does not commit wicked actions, man is the one to blame.

      August 14, 2011 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |

      Baby gezuz doesn't like you saying things like that about God.

      August 14, 2011 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Eywa Has Heard You. The Sky People Are Coming..

      @Rockwood: Thank god baby Jeezy wasn't born a catholic. He'd be one messed up kid.

      August 14, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      God has not abandoned anyone–it was man who turned the collective back to God, and always has been....

      August 14, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Random

      No. Just the cell phone service.

      August 14, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jazzzzzzzz

    Do we see self control in here?


    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is clove, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

    23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • theboosh

      You are indeed a good little christian robot – not one word of original thought.

      August 13, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      Bible = fairy tales. If you accept this fact, you can grow as a human.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ranting citizen

    why was my comment not posted?

    August 13, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz

      because your RANTING... HA HA HA sorry just teasing ya! carry on

      August 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Philip

    @the boosh...hay! That's what G-dubs name sounds like when a brit female newscaster pronounces his name...Lboooosh", as if she's expelling some foul odor and hopes that the audience doesn't smell it. (and as if there has never been an democrat industrialist)

    August 13, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mortimer

    There's a new technology combining parchment paper and feather pens. Referred to as "writing", this deadly weapon must be outlawed to protect the people.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lenny

    Cell phone shutdown probably saved some of those ingrates' lives. Subway is not a safe place to horse around and play cops and hippies.

    August 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andy Michaels

    Flash mobs were hijacked from being fun to being thug gangsta let's kick whities, hispanic,blacks who are successful, and Asians while we steal loot to get "mines".

    August 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
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