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. jeff

    if a repulican were pres. you guys would not say a thing.Whats obamo got to do with this anyway.Go screw Palin and Bachman.BART did nothing wrong.

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

      Except braeak communications law and take away civil rights. But nothing big right?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BART Simpson

    @Jehova: First off it's Jehovah. You might want to learn your own almighty name and no he didn't. I'm blessed in many ways. Go on with your little charade JT Money or is it young hova?.. Lol Great example you're setting.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      Are you blessed with goats? You can do all sorts of dirty things with them.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      "Jehovah" is the English variant of the Latin "Iehovah", which is itself a transliteration of the ancient Hebrew "YHWH", no vowels because when it was first written down, the Hebrew alphabet did not use vowel marks. No one knows for sure how it's supposed to be pronounced. That said, the name has dozens of spelling variants worldwide. It is not your job to tell someone whether the spelling they use is "right", as long as it gets the point across.

      August 14, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Cunning Linguist

      Actually, YHVH is the original Hebrew Tetragrammaton and not YHWH which is the German language variant since no W exists in Hebrew.

      August 14, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
    • bud

      Jehova is actually a correct form of Jehovah. Maybe if you looked up something before spouting off you would not appear so ignorant yourself.

      August 14, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Poop Flinger

    So this is how you would end the BILL of RIGHTS. Starting with the first Amendment, free speech.
    Remember that when it is YOUR free speech being silenced. Remember it was YOU who first gave approval.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      hey, ding bat – you're using PRIVATE communication waves for YOUR free speech... therefore, it's not free. it's private, and they have the right to do what they wish with their property... if that means disabling it, they can do so.... how about you all just don't act like a bunch of d-bags, and there wouldn't be a need for BART officers at all.

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

      oh yeah... and when someone is using facebook to organize a lynch mob to beat you up, i'm sure you'll be crying for help.... put yourself in the other side's shoes for a change you left-wing hippie

      August 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT

      Freedom of Speech means the government cannot censor what you say. It does not mean that you have the right to use your cell phone to organize violence, or even that you have a "right" to use a cell phone at all. Go back to elementary school and have another go at what the Bill of Rights actually guarantees.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carter Sherline

      The Founding Fathers were left wing hippies. Those who made the decision to cut off the cellular signal should be out on their ear.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      I was talking to my doctor when my phone cut out.

      Good thing I didn't die. Way to go BART! I guess they don't care who get's hurt as long as they get what they want.

      Someone once robbed a store and ran down my street, we should close all streets because someone MIGHT use them to commit a crime.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @ bob – if you were on the phone with your doc, you weren't dying. investigate if 911 flow was interrupted before you say something stupid. Also, there wasn't a question that a crime "might" have been committed. they were forming a lynch mob to harass and attack the bart officers............ and if the officers would have defended themselves, you idiots would have cried wolf even more. just don't act like d-bags and there won't be a need for BART.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poop Flinger

      Andrew, the second they turned that system on it became publice communications ans ubject to Federal Cell phone communications act. By interferring with it, they broke not only Federal law, but also civil rights.

      But you are only concerned with your own rights and not those of your neighbor right?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @ poop flinger.....

      well, there's no such thing as the "federal Cell phone communications act..." and that's a fact... looks like you're just slingin' poop to me...

      August 13, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheeto

      You REALLY need to read the Bill of Rights and understand what the 1st Amendment really means, cause you obviously have no clue. About anything.

      August 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    @Mortimer..yes. If an American citizen refuses to control his own writings, Uncle Sam is more than happy to take your tax-dollars and control your writing for you. So write good! Or Uncle sam will control it.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Christopher Quentin

    I'll have to dig out my old C.B. radio again. C.Q. – C.Q. Breaker Breaker . . .

    August 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BART Simpson

    @Jazzzzzz: Within all that good and cutsie stuff you just garbled on here from the Bible there was one piece of fine print.. "long suffering" LMAO.. Have fun with that. My bets are on the real God, not some made up character. No kind and just God would enforce "long suffering".. Wow. I thought I was messed up.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Amber

    Flash mob coming to SF!! Safety first. What the mob thinks second. Things could easily get out of control in a liberal city like SF. These people think their freedom of speech trumps the safety of commuters. Well, not in this case. See how easy it is for a corp. to cut off communication? It's even more simple for the govt to limit access to info and what kind of info, if any, the people receive.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joe

    When times are dangerous, I applaud actions such as this. It's time to take our cities back from all the idiots with a cause. Fill out the proper permits and protest with dignity, not with social disobedience!!!

    August 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carter Sherline

      That's what they said in the South...and they were wrong then too.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @ carter.... what?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jazzzzzzzz


    August 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kc_and_fa

    Free speach does not we need to listen to you and does no mean anyone has to carry your message. Those "rights" are more closely aligned with socialism, a.k.a. the rule of the freeloader.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joeseph Goebbles

      I agree, All forms of protesting should be abolished.

      We think alike you and I.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Orlop

    If I have an unprotected wi-fi router and I switch it off because I see that someone out on the street is using it, am I taking away their right to free speech?! Of course not. It's my router, my land line connection, I didn't like what the person was using it for so I cut him off. So why is what BART did any different?

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

      thank goodness.. I was hoping someone could explain that clearly.... using social media to be a bunch of jerks and criminals isn't good, and it doesn't have to be tolerated.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Lyons

      Cellular service is regulated by the FCC not BART, and many people PAY to have cellular service.

      The correct response is to PROSECUTE the organizers of the actions and the direct participants.

      Cellular records are GREAT evidence if used properly in a court of law.

      One should learn how to use technology to be protected by technology.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carter Sherline

      Because BART is a public utility. That is far different from someone not allowing another to use their private router.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      since BART is a public facility, does that mean that they can't stop me from using the service they provide? Nope. They have that control. Don't be a bunch of d-bags, and this issue wouldn't even be here.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poop Flinger

      BINGO Carter Sherline

      August 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • dial9

      good analogy

      August 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Queen Amidala

    @Poop Flinger: Way to steal a Star Wars line.. lol You know you can't find heaven by sword fighting your white daddy that is dressed like a big black schlong right? I would think the best way into heaven is to not engage in incest activities or clanging meat with old men.. lol wow..

    August 13, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jazzzzzzzz

    22 Self-control is hard for imperfect men to practice. Why make excuses? Try to exercise it. It is one of the fruits of the spirit. So it must be attainable. To have self-control means to be able to control oneself, one’s actions, words, eating and drinking habits, yes, one’s feelings.

    August 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve Lyons

    Next they will try and criminalize the recording of police activity by civilians as well.

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

      well next time a lynch mob gets your location, we'll just let them come to your house and swing away instead of trying to protect you.... put yourself in the shoes of those who were being protected you stupid, ignorant jerk. why are liberals sometimes more close-minded than the right wing nut jobs?

      August 13, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carter Sherline

      They try to do that all the time.

      August 13, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NoodleHat

    I made a doodie. It looks like George Bush. Have you seen my underoos? I lost them 🙁

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