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August 12, 2011 2:30 PM   Subscribe

Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system asked Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to suspend service last night in four downtown San Francisco stations, to prevent a protest over the shooting death of Charles Blair Hill to occur. Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile complied, and the suspension of cell service prevented protesters from organizing and the protest failed to materialize as conceived.
posted by cashman (238 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Knowing no more than you lay out here, let me just say that this is complete and total bullshit.

What the fuck.
posted by kbanas at 2:31 PM on August 12, 2011 [47 favorites]


If people in SF don't immediately spray paint "Tahrir Square" over the signage for those stations I'm going to hop on a plane and do it for them.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:32 PM on August 12, 2011 [33 favorites]


Soon they'll be able to shutoff your phone individually by scanning for keywords like "protest" or "organize" or "pitchforks" in your twitter or SMS messages.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:34 PM on August 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


this is complete and total bullshit.
please explain.
posted by Flood at 2:34 PM on August 12, 2011


The fucking Transit System is Big Brother now?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:34 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let me guess: To celebrate the non-protest, BART transit cops shot an innocent bystander.
posted by adamrice at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [83 favorites]


hat, was merely bugging citizens' communications not dystopian enough?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um... W
posted by Sys Rq at 2:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now now, be fair.

They did keep the trains running on time.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:36 PM on August 12, 2011 [112 favorites]


I'm a little confused.

BART announces that a protest was planned on their website, then asks for cell phone service to be shut down.
A protest does not occur.
Therefore the cell phone service disruption prevented the protest?

Is there any non-BART evidence that a protest was planned in the first place? I don't see how a disruption in cell phone reception would prevent people from showing up at the designated spot at the designated time - how the hell did we pull off protests before we all bought cell phones?
posted by muddgirl at 2:37 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


One would argue that a better way to avoid protests would be to stop shooting people.

But that's just me.
posted by Lord_Pall at 2:38 PM on August 12, 2011 [103 favorites]


Thank you, service providers, for making sure the government was able to infringe everyone's rights of free speech and association. Now, that's customer service!
posted by bearwife at 2:38 PM on August 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Wait, they unplugged the AT&T cells in downtown San Francisco, so my iPhone couldn't get AT&T reception? How would anyone notice the difference in service quality?
posted by Nelson at 2:39 PM on August 12, 2011 [30 favorites]


From the first link:
Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police. 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. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.

Cell phone service was not interrupted outside BART stations.
From this, it sounds like a very localized disruption.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:40 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Protest planned, ABART ABART
posted by resurrexit at 2:40 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is BART's statement, from the first link:
Statement on temporary wireless service interruption in select BART stations on Aug. 11
Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police. 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. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.

Cell phone service was not interrupted outside BART stations. In addition, numerous BART Police officers and other BART personnel with radios were present during the planned protest, and train intercoms and white courtesy telephones remained available for customers seeking assistance or reporting suspicious activity.

BART’s primary purpose is to provide, safe, secure, efficient, reliable, and clean transportation services. BART accommodates expressive activities that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Liberty of Speech Clause of the California Constitution (expressive activity), and has made available certain areas of its property for expressive activity.

Paid areas of BART stations are reserved for ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART cars and trains, or for authorized BART personnel. No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.


Updated: August 12, 2011 1:08 pm
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:41 PM on August 12, 2011


Time to break out the walkie talkies fuck yeah!
posted by Foam Pants at 2:41 PM on August 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


BART’s primary purpose is to provide, safe, secure, efficient, reliable, and clean transportation services.

...which we accomplished by cutting off the tool people use to report all manner of emergencies.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:43 PM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


For context: 'As he spoke to reporters, several white protesters called [BART spokesperson Linton] Johnson, who is African American, "Uncle Tom," and a "self-conflicted blackie."'

Bonus: some protestors smashing up Castro station a few weeks ago after police shot a man elsewhere in town, supposedly over not having a transit ticket (further information)
posted by anigbrowl at 2:43 PM on August 12, 2011


Live by the byte, die by the byte.
posted by sammyo at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


A more complete timeline of events, from SF Appeal, including clips from now-deleted posts on the No Justice No Bart blog, where some demonstrations were being planned.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Soon they'll be able to shutoff your phone individually by scanning for keywords like "protest" or "organize" or "pitchforks" in your twitter or SMS messages.

And protestors will adopt the code word "taters" in response. After all, if we haven't figured out what it means, neither will the authorities.
posted by davejay at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm confused.

BART accommodates expressive activities that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment

No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations

How can both of these things be true? Doesn't the First Amendment guarantee the right to "conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities"?
posted by Zozo at 2:45 PM on August 12, 2011


please explain.

Seriously?
posted by mhoye at 2:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Free Speech Zone is thataway, mister.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


And who says US youth don't know how to rise up. They do, but they rely on unreliable communication sources.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, economic theory says that rapid communication increases the probability of riot occurrence and growth in the immediate term. The shutdown is of the cellphone booster inside the station, since it's virtually impossible to get reception underground. I'm on T-Mobile (not served in SF subway stations) and usually can't get any reception once I go downstairs in most stations. I don't believe this would have impact on service outside the station.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:48 PM on August 12, 2011


They should be counting their lucky stars that there were no medical emergencies that were exacerbated by the inability to use cell service. There could've been a nasty wrongful death suit, if not criminal charges.
posted by mullingitover at 2:49 PM on August 12, 2011 [32 favorites]


The CNET link states that BART employees shut down the cellphone boosters themselves, then informed the companies later.
posted by XMLicious at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course, no protestors can shut down BART quite as effectively as BART itself can.

I also don't think that this was a real protest. Not that some people weren't planning something, but that they were never large enough to be any kind of serious threat, precisely because they didn't do the outreach to get lots of people there. BART seriously overreacted, delaying the commute far more (and potentially endangering people more) than the protest ever would have.

It also gave them the chance to test out a new way to suppress dissent. And now they know that it works, and no one really complains much.

On the news last night one of the BART people said that their *media* people had told them to do this. Really? You're taking tactical advice from your spokespeople?
posted by gingerbeer at 2:52 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think most subway stations have alternate notification mechanisms for actual emergencies. BART has been around a lot longer than ubiquitous cell phones.
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The station and all of the platforms are monitored by Bart police, who often yell things at people on the platform. So while I don't agree with the tactics, it's unlikely a medical emergency would have gone unreported.
posted by tremspeed at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2011


They should be counting their lucky stars that there were no medical emergencies that were exacerbated by the inability to use cell service. There could've been a nasty wrongful death suit, if not criminal charges.
posted by mullingitover at 2:49 PM on August 12 [2 favorites +] [!]


I can absolutely guarantee you that there is no prosecutor in this entire country who is going to bring criminal charges against police for harrasing leftist protestors. There just aren't any.
posted by Avenger at 2:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


GuyZero: "I think most subway stations have alternate notification mechanisms for actual emergencies. BART has been around a lot longer than ubiquitous cell phones."

Suppose you're a doctor on call, and you weren't able to respond to a call from the hospital because you didn't have cell service, thanks to BART's interference. I don't think the hospital would be able to reach you on the BART's emergency phone.
posted by mullingitover at 2:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hrm. Perhaps, those of you in SF all demand a complete refund of your monthly cell plan. This seems to be a bogus interruption of service (potentially illegal, to boot) and an intentional violation of your rights and the promises made by your service provider to give you cell phone coverage, potentially a breach of contract. It's one thing if it is accidental, but it's b.s. when it is intentional. Protest with your wallets.

Also, how is news of this not supposed to incite even more protests?
posted by jabberjaw at 2:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


who often yell things at people on the platform remotely, over the PA system, I meant to say.
posted by tremspeed at 2:54 PM on August 12, 2011


There are way too many factors involved, it's impossible to prove that a riot was prevented through shutting down cellular service.
posted by autoclavicle at 2:55 PM on August 12, 2011


BART has been around a lot longer than ubiquitous cell phones.

So have protests, they survived. There are many situations where a cellphone is the best tool, especially in situations where you don't want to attract attention while calling for help.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:55 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of some quote I came across once. Something about the merger of state and corporate power.

Don't quite remember how it went.
posted by Trurl at 2:57 PM on August 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


There could've been a nasty wrongful death suit, if not criminal charges.

Charged with what, exactly?

This seems to be a bogus interruption of service (potentially illegal, to boot) and an intentional violation of your rights and the promises made by your service provider to give you cell phone coverage, potentially a breach of contract.

That seems to cover jamming devices. That's not at all the same thing.
posted by dsfan at 2:58 PM on August 12, 2011


How can both of these things be true?

There are five lights.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [22 favorites]


This is just all kinds of creepy. Of course, all the shootings by cops at BART are also freaking creepy.

I had an uncouth(?) thought when I heard about the London riots: "Wow, how come we're not having that go on in the Bay Area right now?" Uh....
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:01 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not quite sure how this could have possibly stopped a protest from occurring if it was only in the stations.
posted by empath at 3:01 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, apparently a cellphone's not enough any more.

You need a cellphone AND a walkie talkie.

A couple of bullhorns would be a good idea, too, I think.
posted by mmrtnt at 3:02 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


They tipped their hand too soon. Bad move. Now cell tower boosters will be recommended equipment for the tech-minded protest organizer. My guess is that soon a tech-minded protester will start short-range jamming of other frequencies, for example, police radio bands and other public and private communication networks, when they want to make things difficult for the authorities to control/contain the protestor's actions.
posted by chambers at 3:02 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can think of four telecommunications companies who no longer qualify as common carriers.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:03 PM on August 12, 2011 [18 favorites]


OK. So you could use cell repeaters to defeat this. Or a chat app and lunchbox mounted wifi. A couple nodes could do it.
posted by fake at 3:04 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


There was no racial aspect to this shooting, and the guy was 45 and "transient" which I'm guessing is code for "homeless." It's not the kind of incident that typically starts riots.
posted by desjardins at 3:04 PM on August 12, 2011


"I'm not quite sure how this could have possibly stopped a protest from occurring if it was only in the stations."

They were probably going to do a flashmob thing and gather all the protestors together at a station chosen on the spur of the moment.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:05 PM on August 12, 2011


Tipping their hand already?
posted by yesster at 3:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can both of these things be true? Doesn't the First Amendment guarantee the right to "conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities"?

It does, but BART stations are technically private property. When you enter the ticketholder area, BART is within its rights to exclude anyone who doesn't have a ticket, and is under no obligation to make the platform available for other purposes. If you wanted to march up and down outside my house to protest something you could do so, but you don't have the right to come onto or into my property to express yourself unless I invite you to do so. In general no solicitation of any kind is allowed within the transit , by Muni or Bart. Protesting, leafleting, busking etc., are limited to the station concourse, outside of the fare area.

I'm not endorsing the BART police shooting a guy last month, but it is worth at least considering the risk factors of someone armed with a knife. There have been several stabbings and shootings on public transport in SF in the last few years (most recently in May), so it's not an artificial concern. Furthermore, protests that take place on the platform don't just impact the police, but also the people riding the train as passengers and were held up by the protesters' violent actions.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


Time for pirate radio to make a comeback.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hrm. Perhaps, those of you in SF all demand a complete refund of your monthly cell plan.

AFAIK, the OP's claim that cell phone providers "suspended service" is a myth - BART claims that they turned off the cell repeater which services their SF stations.
posted by muddgirl at 3:07 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah I think the protesters dropped the ball. They all went home because there was no service inside a couple of train stations? Not very dedicated I guess.

It seems eminently reasonable for BART to prevent protesters from gathering on subway platforms for safety reasons.

Then again, I'm not getting worked up over cops shooting a guy who attacked them with a knife. I may be to the right of most here on these issues.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:07 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


They all went home

They didn't show up in the first place - again, the only "evidence" for this protest is a website deleted well before Aug. 11 and BARTs own claims.
posted by muddgirl at 3:09 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was this shooting incident caught on camera?
posted by clavdivs at 3:11 PM on August 12, 2011


That seems to cover jamming devices. That's not at all the same thing.

In terms of the specific meaning of the regulations, sure. In terms of the end effect, turning the cell stations off is just a more efficient form of jamming. The intent here is that cell phone service should be available wherever it is technically possible to provide it, rather than limiting it at the whims of whoever asks. The FCC won't even let prisons operate cell phone jammers, despite enormous numbers of phones being smuggled to prisoners and the very real safety threats that happen as a result (gang bosses ordering hits, rapists calling and harassing their victims from inside prison, etc...).

If we're not willing to cross that line, how come it's just fine and dandy to shut down all cell phones in the subway because someone, somewhere, thought, based on vague rumors on the internet, that there might be some kind of protest at some BART station in SF?
posted by zachlipton at 3:12 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


How can both of these things be true? Doesn't the First Amendment guarantee the right to "conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities"?

Sure, but not anywhere at any time.

For starters, you certainly have no right to gather on private property.

Certain parts of public property are excluded as well, which is not entirely unreasonable. You cannot hold a mass rally in a public hospital emergency room for example. Probably best to not hold a protest inside a SoCal fire station in wildfire season either.

BART is claiming that a protest inside their paid area would constitute a public safety hazard. Frankly I don't buy it, and I certainly don't buy that BART has the authority to make that call. The poor judgment of BART's security team has reached legendary status and I hope they get yanked back hard for not consulting the legal system before taking action.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:12 PM on August 12, 2011


Suppose you're a doctor on call, and you weren't able to respond to a call from the hospital because you didn't have cell service, thanks to BART's interference. I don't think the hospital would be able to reach you on the BART's emergency phone.

So that would suck, but I've never heard of a mobile phone company held liable for anything due to a lack of coverage or service. I don't see why BART would be liable either. Not that I condone this nor do I even believe it had anything to do with the lack of protests, but I just don't think it's either illegal or particularly dangerous. Subways in most cities (Toronto, NYC) have no cell phone service anywhere in most stations or tunnels.
posted by GuyZero at 3:15 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not quite sure how this could have possibly stopped a protest from occurring if it was only in the stations.

I don't think it much matters if they stopped it or not. The problem here is the press release: a government agency announced that they had acted with the specific intent of interfering with American citizens' right to assemble.

That's pretty serious stuff.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:18 PM on August 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


GuyZero: " I don't see why BART would be liable either."

Well there's this:

XMLicious: "The CNET link states that BART employees shut down the cellphone boosters themselves, then informed the companies later."
posted by mullingitover at 3:19 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think it much matters if they stopped it or not. The problem here is the press release: a government agency announced that they had acted with the specific intent of interfering with American citizens' right to assemble.

And to report the news. If a protest did take place, professional and citizen journalists would be there filming, photographing, and tweeting the events and relaying them to the public via their cell phones. Not to mention live voice interviews via cell phone. This is precisely what happened in the last BART protest, where pretty much every SF news organization had someone doing live updates from the scene, which was useful to both document the protests and to help commuters understand the fluid situation.
posted by zachlipton at 3:22 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jeebus Christ on a stick!! Those who think this is reasonable some how - just do not get it do you?

Regardless of the circumstances of the potential protest or whether it is just or not - a municipal agency in the U S of f*cking A was able to convince 4 major corporations to suspend service in several locales for a perceived threat - not even a real threat. This indicates to me that these corporations would willingly halt all service merely on the whims of any government agency that requests it. Which in turn could potentially hinder all of us from communicating freely in the future.

On the most basic and selfish level - I value the freedom to communicate with a device I purchase and pay for without having to worry about some bureaucrat getting a little uptight and having my service provider shut service to my phone off.

* apologies for the cursing but I am quite upset about this.
posted by yertledaturtle at 3:23 PM on August 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


All I'm saying is there's no statute that says there has to be cell phone coverage everywhere. This is pretty crazy, but for a transit agency whose private police force shoot people it's only mid-grade crazy. Plus it's double-plus insane that they put out a press release. It seems like something they'd try to just sweep under the rug.

a municipal agency in the U S of f*cking A was able to convince 4 major corporations to suspend service in several locales for a perceived threat - not even a real threat.

My reading of the press release is that BART staff just went in and basically flipped the breakers for the cell repeaters to "off". I don't think the phone companies had any choice to agree or disagree. They found out later.
posted by GuyZero at 3:25 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jeebus Christ on a stick!! Those who think this is reasonable some how - just do not get it do you?

Regardless of the circumstances of the potential protest or whether it is just or not - a municipal agency in the U S of f*cking A was able to convince 4 major corporations to suspend service in several locales for a perceived threat - not even a real threat.


Well, no. BART turned off the repeaters in their stations underground, which is private property, and then informed the carriers that they had done so.

You do not have a constitutional right to cell service in subway stations.

And this is not the same as jamming, which would have impacted cell service in areas not on the private property of BART.

If you guys want to take away the right of BART to do this kind of thing, you'll probably have to do it with some kind of city ordinance requiring BART to keep cell service running in stations.
posted by empath at 3:26 PM on August 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


a municipal agency in the U S of f*cking A was able to convince 4 major corporations to suspend service in several locales for a perceived threat - not even a real threat.

Again, until we get better information this did not occur. I don't know where the OP got their information but so far it is unsubstantiated. All reports I've read state that BART employees turned off the cell phone repeaters that ensure cell service underground.

This is pretty crazy, but for a transit agency whose private police force shoot people it's only mid-grade crazy.

Yeah, I'm pissed but I'm also like, "Fuck, maybe they should just stop shooting people in the first place."
posted by muddgirl at 3:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Btw, i think it was stupid and counterproductive for BART to do this, but probably not illegal and definitely not unconstitutional)
posted by empath at 3:27 PM on August 12, 2011


You know, it's freaking me out that we have these massive social problems in Philly, a pool of gasoline wait for a match to be thrown it. I haven't seen the numbers for the unemployed black youth in the town, but I'm bettin' they're terrible, esp. when compared to white folk. You have increasingly deprived youth, increasingly freaked out white people as busses and trains get shot up/at.

And then we have these flash mobs. I can almost hear policy-makers here, the ones with any foresight anyway, and are not minions of Gov. Corbett, look to London and think 'hmm -- so when the shit hits the fan hear, what do we need to shut down social networks?'

I guess what makes me mad is like with the Bart Cop, no cop murder, no problem, in Philly it's like, FUND THE FUCKING SCHOOLS ALREADY, no problem.
posted by angrycat at 3:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The problem here is the press release: a government agency announced that they had acted with the specific intent of interfering with American citizens' right to assemble.


That right is permitted on certain properties without a permit, and others, with a permit. Would I want a repeat of what happened in London, inside a Bart Station? It could happen. What if an innocent bystander was accidentally pushed onto the tracks by an unruly crowd, or shot by a stray bullet from an unruly protestor, or BART officer who was compelled to fire a sidearm? Then what? Then that person becomes the victim of the crowd that is protesting BART police actions? It could happen. If someone feels a need to protest, protest outside the station, at BART headquarters, etc. etc., not where there are hundreds of innocent bystanders milling around - many of them to young, or old, or infirm, or just plain slow enough to get out of the way of spontaneous mayhem.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


BART may or may not be obligated to let you protest on their property. They certainly are not obligated to help you do it.
posted by miyabo at 3:28 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the more important issue here is that BART KEEPS SHOOTING PEOPLE.

Maybe we should focus on that instead.
posted by empath at 3:28 PM on August 12, 2011 [39 favorites]


I became angry and my hot-blooded hate of Tom Corbett got mixed up in my comment. Ignore that part.
posted by angrycat at 3:29 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would have to say that if you want to stop anti-shooting protests, stopping the shootings is a better solution as opposed to trying to stop the protests.
posted by GuyZero at 3:29 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The phone company relays are not BART property; BART employees disabled a communication system, and I am pretty sure that is illegal. It's no different than an aggravated former employee coming in and shutting off a telephone exchange.

Think about what would happen if a protester did that as an act of protest. Now ask yourself, is that going to be the outcome for the BART employees who turned off the cell service?

The answer to the question tells you what you need to know about the nation in which we find ourselves.
posted by wuwei at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I swear there was an AskMe recently asking when governments would start shutting down cell networks. I can't find it at the moment. Maybe it was deleted for being chatfiltery? Seems unlikely, I must just be missing it.

Anyway, this conclusively answers it.
posted by odinsdream at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2011


Would I want a repeat of what happened in London, inside a Bart Station? It could happen. What if an innocent bystander was accidentally pushed onto the tracks by an unruly crowd, or shot by a stray bullet from an unruly protestor, or BART officer who was compelled to fire a sidearm? Then what?

You're right, it's clearly too dangerous to allow these common folk the right to peaceful assembly. What were we thinking?
posted by mek at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Suppose you're a doctor on call, and you weren't able to respond to a call from the hospital because you didn't have cell service, thanks to BART's interference. I don't think the hospital would be able to reach you on the BART's emergency phone.

You wouldn't assume you have cell service on BART. Seriously, before this discussion, I had no idea there was supposedly service in downtown stations. In the East Bay, it's spotty at best above ground, at least between West Oakland and Richmond.
posted by hoyland at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


With all the data mining that's going on and constantly changing technology- I can see a time in the near future - where they find a way to turn off "only" the phones of those people deemed "a risk" of causing a disruption.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 3:34 PM on August 12, 2011


1) Bart is not "private" therefore it's property is not "private". It is a government agency paid for by tax dollars. It is public.

2) Sorry - I was mistaken about the their request being fulfilled by the corporations in question. However I have a feeling with no evidence backing the corporations gave permission to BART to shut service off and BART is willing to take any potential flack for it.

3) This is still disconcerting to me. It indicates a mindset by government officials in public agencies that value the trains being on time over freedom of expression. I have very little doubt that if the government agency was larger that the corporations in question would of complied willingly.
posted by yertledaturtle at 3:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The phone company relays are not BART property;

Depends on what we're talking about. Repeater/boosters might be.

If I have a micro-cell from AT&T, that sits in my house and that I paid for, am I prevented from turning it off? That seems ridiculous. But it's the same thing (since it's not like only my cell phone would be using it, depending on range/layout).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:36 PM on August 12, 2011


I really hope there is a successful protest in the BART stations soon. I'd hate to see others get the idea that this is a good strategy to prevent protest.
posted by orme at 3:37 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The phone company relays are not BART property; BART employees disabled a communication system, and I am pretty sure that is illegal.

You don't know what kind of agreement BART made with the cell phone companies when those repeaters were installed.
posted by empath at 3:40 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


However I have a feeling with no evidence backing the corporations gave permission to BART to shut service off and BART is willing to take any potential flack for it.

This is a textbook example of the way that deeply-held beliefs can't be swayed by evidence or lack thereof.
posted by muddgirl at 3:41 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


You're right, it's clearly too dangerous to allow these common folk the right to peaceful assembly. What were we thinking?

This is why "make a new Constitution" approaches to our political plight would be a frying pan to fire transition.

No way in hell "freedom of speech" would ever make it in again.
posted by Trurl at 3:43 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


If I have a micro-cell from AT&T, that sits in my house and that I paid for, am I prevented from turning it off? That seems ridiculous. But it's the same thing (since it's not like only my cell phone would be using it, depending on range/layout).

There's a difference between a private citizen turning off a device that has minimal impact on anyone but the occupants of your home and a government agency turning off a communications system used by thousands with the specific intent of disrupting lawful communications.

Slippery slope arguments are, well, slippery, but where do you draw the line? Turning off micro-cells is cool, shutting down downtown subway cell repeaters is seemingly ok with a lot of people here, so what about the cell towers for a neighborhood? A city?
posted by zachlipton at 3:45 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Muddgirl - i did not say I believe it. It is a feeling/ thought which can be changed with evidence either way. I look at evidence for my beliefs/ thoughts /feelings all of the time and revise them accordingly.

Fact is - I do not know whether these corporations gave BART permission or not. I am not stuck on the idea that they did though. Evidence to the contrary would definitely cause me to change my mind about it.
posted by yertledaturtle at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2011


Isn't this the type of situation where a wireless mesh network could be constructed in the environs of the protest to allow users to access an intranet that relays information within it?
posted by codacorolla at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I really hope there is a successful protest in the BART stations soon. I'd hate to see others get the idea that this is a good strategy to prevent protest."

All the would-be protesters have to do is organize properly beforehand. If they keep the location of the protest a secret and then all show up in the same station it would still feel random to the general public.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:47 PM on August 12, 2011


Slippery slope arguments are, well, slippery, but where do you draw the line?

It is a tough call. I think in this case it falls _just_ on the side of OK since the repeater in question is meant to only serve people in a specific private-property area (my understanding is that while BART is public transit, it is not public property).

Larger cell tower / repeaters that serve public property seem fundamentally different to me. But then what about one in the middle of a huge private development? No public property, but would affect a lot of people in their own homes. So I'm not really sure the distinction I'm drawing is all that clear.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


BTW, this is only tangentially related, but BART and its partner WiFi Rail have failed to provide promised WiFi service on the trains.

I think it's interesting how quickly we've come to take media as basic civil rights. I tend to think of WiFi as being as important and ubiquitous as running water, or maybe electricity. I just expect to have WiFi anywhere civilized. I think of cell phone service as a similar right now, and I think deliberate jamming of cell phone signals by the government should definitely be a first amendment issue. This specific BART case is technically a little different, but it's still remarkable how it feels like an abridgment of a civil right that literally did not exist 20 years ago.
posted by Nelson at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


shutting down downtown subway cell repeaters is seemingly ok with a lot of people here

There's a difference between "ok" and "legal." I think most people here are asserting that it's legal, not that it's wonderful.
posted by desjardins at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2011


And when I say OK, I mean legal / should be legal.

I don't actually think they did the right thing or that they _should_ have turned them off. But that's different from "shouldn't be legal".
posted by wildcrdj at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2011


I just expect to have WiFi anywhere civilized.

WiFi, not cell? Really? Most places I go don't have WiFi and I live in a major city (LA). I get cell coverage being that fundamental but not WiFi, which is pretty much limited to a handful of consumer businesses (Starbucks), private homes/businesses (usually encrypted networks anyway), and hotels/airports.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:50 PM on August 12, 2011


An Egyptian court has fined ousted president Hosni Mubarak and former officials more than USD 90m for cutting off access to internet and mobile phone services during the country's massive protests in January.

Of course, they're a fledgling democracy and don't yet have our depth of understanding of how freedom works.
posted by Trurl at 3:51 PM on August 12, 2011 [22 favorites]


"The phone company relays are not BART property;"

Probably not, but the breaker box is.

"BART employees disabled a communication system, and I am pretty sure that is illegal."

I doubt it. They turned off repeaters that they probably are under no legal obligation to allow anyway. I would think the repeaters were installed as a convenience for BART customers.
posted by MikeMc at 3:53 PM on August 12, 2011


You're right, it's clearly too dangerous to allow these common folk the right to peaceful assembly. What were we thinking?

Recent protests on SF transit have been anything but peaceful. As shown in the links above, at least one has degenerated into straight-up violence and vandalism.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:54 PM on August 12, 2011


And when I say OK, I mean legal / should be legal.

Ah, those are two different things to me, and quite possibly to most people.

It is a feeling/ thought which can be changed with evidence either way.

If you were operating an unsecured WiFi router connected to a Comcast modem, would you ask for Comcast's permission before turning off the router?
posted by muddgirl at 3:55 PM on August 12, 2011


I think it's interesting how quickly we've come to take media as basic civil rights.

I don't think it's surprising, though. The Bell monopoly actively promoted this idea as part of their business model; in their justification of their state-sponsored control of the industry, every home in the country had the right to telephone access, and the free market could not provide this. They set themselves up as an essential service (which just happened to also make oodles of cash), and the rest of the media built on that.
posted by mek at 3:57 PM on August 12, 2011


Governments used to - and still do in many countries - shut down printing operations to prevent unrest from being organized.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
posted by Xoebe at 3:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Well, no. BART turned off the repeaters in their stations underground, which is private property, and then informed the carriers that they had done so."

I am downright stunned speechless at how ignorant and dangerous this action was. Regardless of the technicalities on private property or rights, the perception is that transit systems are public spaces and cell phone communication is constant and (more or less) reliable. You shut these things down or otherwise constrain them and you have people FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. I'm surprised nobody did and I think BART and the city of SF got luuuucky on that one.

Were I in that situation, I'd wonder if there was an earthquake, a terrorist attack, a takeover, some sort of lockdown...and I'd be further panicked by my INABILITY TO FIND OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON. I certainly wouldn't trust anybody yelling from the platform and I sure as HELL wouldn't get on a train.

This is the sort of action that could start a riot. And if there wasn't a protest before, there sure as heck should be one now.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:02 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Of course, they're a fledgling democracy and don't yet have our depth of understanding of how freedom works.

You don't see the difference between shutting off the entire countries Internet and turning off a few repeaters? BART would be perfectly within their rights to pack the repeaters up and send them back to the carriers, depending on their contract.
posted by empath at 4:03 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


the perception is that transit systems are public spaces and cell phone communication is constant and (more or less) reliable

This is not the case in most subway systems. I don't think it's even consistently the case on BART, although my ridership there was pretty limited when I lived in the SF area.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:05 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am downright stunned speechless at how ignorant and dangerous this action was. Regardless of the technicalities on private property or rights, the perception is that transit systems are public spaces and cell phone communication is constant and (more or less) reliable. You shut these things down or otherwise constrain them and you have people FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. I'm surprised nobody did and I think BART and the city of SF got luuuucky on that one.

Uh, most cities until very recently did not have any cell service underground, and it's still unreliable as hell in dc.
posted by empath at 4:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


in terrible British accent: Dare I say it, but protests on SF transit in the colonies have been anything but peaceful. Why in this incident an unruly crowd attacked law-enforcement agents! Good thing it led to new legislation by beneficent authorities which appropriately restricted their right to assembly. A right these rabble clearly cannot be trusted to exercise responsibly!
posted by mek at 4:06 PM on August 12, 2011


empath: "Of course, they're a fledgling democracy and don't yet have our depth of understanding of how freedom works.

You don't see the difference between shutting off the entire countries Internet and turning off a few repeaters? BART would be perfectly within their rights to pack the repeaters up and send them back to the carriers, depending on their contract.
"

The [despicable] motives were the same: preventing a peaceful protest from happening. So arguing about the legality of it is missing the point.
posted by mullingitover at 4:09 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next time they'll just turn out the lights once protestors congregate. That will probably end well.
posted by GuyZero at 4:12 PM on August 12, 2011


This seems like more like an attack vulnerability than an attack hardening:

1. Generate fake flash mob protest chatter on social networks.
2. Get the transit authority to freak out and shut off communication systems.
3. Attack the transit system while a portion of the communication systems that service it are offline. This increases both your chances of success as well as the severity of harm inflicted once successful.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:12 PM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think it was a stupid move that betrays an authoritarian mindset and should make BART customers rightly pissed off, but come on, it's not Egypt.

I think that who ever is responsible for subway security needs to be fired. They need to clean house. Their response to both shootings is sick.

But this is not creeping totalitarianism. This is pure local incompetence.
posted by empath at 4:12 PM on August 12, 2011


This is pure local incompetence.

I dunno. It seems like a lot of work and planning to install cell phone repeaters just to later shut them off. My main take-away here is that cell phone work in underground BART stations under normal circumstances which is pretty novel to me.

Again, if I wanted to get riled up about BART the two main issues, in order of importance, are:

1 - stop shooting people
2 - get rid of the carpet and cloth seats. I mean, how gross is BART, AMIRITE?
posted by GuyZero at 4:16 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am downright stunned speechless at how ignorant and dangerous this action was. Regardless of the technicalities on private property or rights, the perception is that transit systems are public spaces and cell phone communication is constant and (more or less) reliable. You shut these things down or otherwise constrain them and you have people FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. I'm surprised nobody did and I think BART and the city of SF got luuuucky on that one.

Really? Do you FREAK THE FUCK OUT everytime you lose reception? That'd be a lot of FREAKING THE FUCK OUT for me. I've been getting very disturbed at many actions taken these days, but this seems like not a deal at all. We have no idea what the arrangement is for the repeaters in the stations. I just don't understand this extreme reaction.
posted by Phantomx at 4:18 PM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think it was a stupid move that betrays an authoritarian mindset

Normally, I'm inclined to assume the worst in terms of creeping totalitarianism, but I think you're right here. Assuming this wasn't encouraged by SFPD or the local police agency, this is more an indictment of the BART security than government thuggery.

But it does seem to point to the fact that maybe the shootings weren't just a few bad apples having accidents. It looks like whoever is in charge of BART security is encouraging a culture of aggressive authoritarianism, and that culture is influencing the low-level security guards. Not good.
posted by formless at 4:22 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mikey-san, you're on to something. Is this all it takes to turn off cellphones in BART? That's a serious system vulnerability right there.
posted by fake at 4:22 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't quite get the outrage either. People here are acting like they cut off the oxygen to the station or something. Geez, it's only cell service. Occasionally I forget my phone at home and still I manage to survive.
posted by notme at 4:24 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


clavdivs: "Was this shooting incident caught on camera?"

Partly.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:24 PM on August 12, 2011


I was going to say the same - this seems like an easy way to start a cell denial of service attack. Just create a credible protest announcement.
posted by zippy at 4:24 PM on August 12, 2011


Regardless of the technicalities on private property or rights, the perception is that transit systems are public spaces and cell phone communication is constant and (more or less) reliable.

Cell service underground on BART is anything but reliable - only recently has that service gotten any better, and it's still not perfect. Your expectation is unreasonable.

I am against shooting people, but the case of Charles Hill isn't cut-and-dried. I am not happy about BART cop shootings, but I'm also not keen on homeless people with knives hanging out on the platforms. The planned disruption of service is obnoxiously rude and pointless - don't you convey the same message by peacefully protesting above ground? Why do you have to make the lives of commuters miserable?
posted by factory123 at 4:25 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


this is not creeping totalitarianism

If they get away with it, it is. A public agency just told the public to F-off and use the white courtesy telephone if they have problems. I'd think law enforcement agencies are going to look at this to see how far and how fast they can push the line.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The [despicable] motives were the same: preventing a peaceful protest from happening. So arguing about the legality of it is missing the point.

Protesting in an enclosed area where hi-speed trains are moving right next to you is dangerous. Not only to the protesters, but to riders themselves. In addition, people could still protest at the train station, which would pretty much have the same effect. There are limits to the right of free speech (e.g., clear and present danger), so it seems reasonable to have limits to the right of assembly.
posted by FJT at 4:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


[[ You don't see the difference between shutting off the entire countries Internet and turning off a few repeaters? BART would be perfectly within their rights to pack the repeaters up and send them back to the carriers, depending on their contract." ]]

The [despicable] motives were the same: preventing a peaceful protest from happening. So arguing about the legality of it is missing the point.


My understanding is that infringing of one's civil right to peaceful assembly is in fact illegal - if we want to play it that way*.

Sorry if the number of victims this time wasn't sufficiently impressive. But I figure by the time they do it to the whole country, it will be too late to raise any complaints then.
posted by Trurl at 4:28 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mikey-san, you're on to something. Is this all it takes to turn off cellphones in BART? That's a serious system vulnerability right there.

It proves, once again, that it's extremely easy to manipulate people who react hastily. I don't have an opinion (yet) about whether BART was right or wrong for shutting off cell service, but there appears to be a security drawback to what they did when you realize everyone in the Bay Area is packing a way to communicate with authorities, responders, and citizens.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:29 PM on August 12, 2011


could still protest at the train station

I mean the train station entrance on the surface, sorry.
posted by FJT at 4:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Protesting in an enclosed area where hi-speed trains are moving right next to you is dangerous.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase... oh, fuck it.
posted by Trurl at 4:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, there's basically no cell service in the NYC subways. So it's not that the BART cell shutdown created a vulnerability that didn't exist before, but rather that they removed an improvement they had and this could have been exploited. I'm not trying to scaremonger, but it's worth pointing out. The next logical question is, what else could you get the transit authority to do hastily with such tactics?
posted by Mikey-San at 4:31 PM on August 12, 2011


The FCC could rescind all mobile phone bandwidth licenses tomorrow and I doubt it would be illegal or unconstitutional. It would be pretty bad for the stock market but I'm quite sincere when I say that the existence of the phone system doesn't seem to be constitutionally protected to me. But I'm not Judge Scalia (I know, I had a few of you fooled there for a while).

Now, do I think this is a good idea or would shutting down cell phone networks be morally right? No. It's a terrible, totalitarian idea. But the government has plenty of means by which they can tell the whole industry to pack up and take up onion farming.
posted by GuyZero at 4:34 PM on August 12, 2011


I am not happy about BART cop shootings, but I'm also not keen on homeless people with knives hanging out on the platforms.

There are generally thought to be a few options for dealing with drunks besides shooting them.
posted by empath at 4:34 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


This kind of protest is not peaceful. I'm fine with nonviolent protest and from what I've seen so are all the transit agencies in SF. I see peaceful political protests around the downtown stations at least once a month and there's never any interference. Crucially, they're not trying to shut down the subway station or heckling the people who work there with racist epithets.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that infringing of one's civil right to peaceful assembly is in fact illegal - if we want to play it that way*.

You don't have a right to assemble wherever and whenever you want, no. And the stated goal of this assembly was not peaceable.
posted by empath at 4:36 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Normally, I'm inclined to assume the worst in terms of creeping totalitarianism, but I think you're right here. Assuming this wasn't encouraged by SFPD or the local police agency, this is more an indictment of the BART security than government thuggery.But it does seem to point to the fact that maybe the shootings weren't just a few bad apples having accidents. It looks like whoever is in charge of BART security is encouraging a culture of aggressive authoritarianism, and that culture is influencing the low-level security guards. Not good.

The BART Police is an actual police agency with full police powers just like the SFPD or the Oakland Police. These aren't power hungry transit security guards; they are sworn police officers who have made a habit of shooting people who don't have guns and now shutting down communication networks because they read a rumor on the internet.
posted by zachlipton at 4:38 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are generally thought to be a few options for dealing with drunks besides shooting them.

Very true. But this might have been the appropriate reaction to dealing with a drunk with a knife. I don't know, you don't know, the protesters don't know.
posted by factory123 at 4:39 PM on August 12, 2011


Were they honestly planning on holding the protest inside the station? Right on the platforms? I have no idea whether that is a civic right or not, but it seems a terrible idea. Wouldn't you essentially be kettling yourselves? And not particularly visible except to a bunch of pissed off commuters?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:43 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Very true. But this might have been the appropriate reaction to dealing with a drunk with a knife. I don't know, you don't know, the protesters don't know.

Toronto has bystanders actually getting shot on subway platforms by random people with guns and yet somehow the TTC police manage not to shoot anyone with knives, guns or whatever. Same with most urban subway systems like London. BART has a completely unacceptable number of shootings by their officers, i.e. more than zero.
posted by GuyZero at 4:45 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Time for pirate radio to make a comeback.
> posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:06 PM on August 12 [1 favorite +] [!]

Dibs on the handle Wolfman Jack
posted by jfuller at 4:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to ride BART all the time and had AT&T...fully aware of how deplorable the cell phone service is. I wasn't referring to freaking out over losing reception...I was more talking about how panic-inducing it would be when a whole subway platform people start realizing that a major line of communication was completely shut down for unknown reasons. Especially given the political tension surrounding BART security and incidents these days.

We have certain social and pragmatic expectations about how things, information, systems are supposed to flow. Especially common, public systems. We even know how reliable the unreliable systems typically are (ex. cell phone service in BART stations/platforms...you only have to mess with that just a wee bit for people to notice that something is atypical for a certain expectation of "normal"). For BART agents to just flip switches and change the social contract without warning could really incite annoyance at the very least; mistrust, panic and chaos at the worst. All it could possibly take would be a few people standing around, losing their calls, messing with their phones, others noticing, then everybody noticing/talking/wondering what the hell is going on that everybody has NO bars, is stuck underground, and clueless.

Not to mention how wrong this is all is on principle, regardless if there aren't obvious effects or ramifications.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


But this might have been the appropriate reaction to dealing with a drunk with a knife

I'm having a really hard time imagining a situation where two cops with tasers would need to use deadly force to take down a belligerent drunk.

I don't even know why they're giving them tasers if they don't want to use them.
posted by empath at 4:49 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Toronto has bystanders actually getting shot on subway platforms by random people with guns and yet somehow the TTC police manage not to shoot anyone with knives, guns or whatever.

Um, this sounds like an argument for more police shootings.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:50 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. Sprint, I am disappoint.

I'd write a letter but it'd do nothing.
posted by Malice at 4:50 PM on August 12, 2011


Um, this sounds like an argument for more police shootings.

Only if you are the sort of NRA member who equates civil society with spaghetti westerns wherein random gunfights are socially appropriate.
posted by GuyZero at 4:52 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm also a bit baffled by what they thought they were doing. I don't follow the logic of this being "one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform" ... um, how do you figure? How is this preventative action?
posted by iamkimiam at 4:53 PM on August 12, 2011


I was more talking about how panic-inducing it would be when a whole subway platform people start realizing that a major line of communication was completely shut down for unknown reasons?

Here is how I imagine it went down.

"Fuck, I just l lost my call."

"So did I!"

"Fucking AT&T."

"Oh look my train is there."
posted by empath at 4:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


How is this preventative action?

It wasn't. It was stupid and entirely unnecessary.
posted by empath at 4:55 PM on August 12, 2011


Only if you are the sort of NRA member who equates civil society with spaghetti westerns wherein random gunfights are socially appropriate.

According to you you already have random gunfights erupting in your subway stations. A weird way to boast about the efficacy of your police tactics.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 4:57 PM on August 12, 2011


I'm having a really hard time imagining a situation where two cops with tasers would need to use deadly force to take down a belligerent drunk.

BART cops aren't required to be able to tell their tasers from their pistols.
posted by smartyboots at 4:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's also an underlying assumption in the action that I am wildly uncomfortable with. It's the idea that the needs for communication and the communication used for "good" purposes is either somehow outweighed by or is the minority to the communication that would be used for "bad" purposes in this potential protest scenario, and therefore the communication flow needs to be shut down. In my mind, that's the beginning of the breakdown of trust and it really makes me sad that people with this kind power operate under that assumption and have the ability and desire to impose it unto a mass of others, who may or may not see things as such.

Maybe I have this assumption wrong. It's certainly possible, because I'm just guessing at the thought process here...it's certainly the OPPOSITE of what I'd do given a perceived threat*. So, yeah, I hope I'm seeing it all skewed and maybe somebody could clarify my flawed logic here.

*My instinct would be to open up access, be it by open gates, communication flow, more trains, whatever...get things moving, don't impede the flow, free things up so people aren't confined, constrained, clueless. I mean, for real...if I was there and if the protest was about to transpire and it did happen at the platform (weird and unlikely), and it wasn't gonna be peaceful, well I'd be super pissed that the cell phone service was down so that my Twitter friends and whatever wouldn't have been able to text me to give me a heads up and tell me to get out of there and off to somewhere safe. I feel like that need for communication was prioritized lower than the need to prevent somebody else from communicating to find out what...where the protest was...FROM THE PLATFORM??? Just makes no sense.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:24 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


How long before it's a standard junior high prank to see if you and a few buddies can shut down BART phone service for a night by faking a protest online?

I look forward to the first prosecution for lack of intent to protest.
posted by jamjam at 5:25 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks this whole deal is convoluted.
posted by clavdivs at 5:33 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


They could mitigate the collateral damage/inconvenience by suspending only the phones for 18 - 28yo males and... Oh god this is going to happen, isn't it???
posted by LordSludge at 5:37 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


But this might have been the appropriate reaction to dealing with a drunk with a knife

I'm having a really hard time imagining a situation where two cops with tasers would need to use deadly force to take down a belligerent drunk.

I don't even know why they're giving them tasers if they don't want to use them.


Once someone is actively trying to stab people, they've escalated to lethal force. Therefore the appropriate weapon is the one that reliably makes them stop trying to stab people fastest, which I suspect is not the taser. If I worked in law enforcement and someone went for a taser in that situation I might applaud them or chew them out. The defining factor would be the distance they were from the guy with the knife, not the size of the knife or the level of coordination displayed by the person holding it. If the guy actually cut one of the officers I've only got sympathy for the officer's and Charles Blair Hill's family.

I love this attitude of telling people who get in potentially deadly confrontations that they should always second guess themselves. Ideally you train, train, train, train, and train some more so that you do the right thing instinctively. That way when the shit hits the fan and the adrenaline short circuits your brain you do the right thing.

There are a lot of criticisms that could be leveled at BART's training I'm sure. There could be a ton of reasons why the actual story is not the narrative that the BART spokespeople claim. There's also a condemnation to be leveled at our society as a whole for creating such a huge criminal class in the first place, and for ignoring the enforcement of justice where it makes us uncomfortable. To take this sketchy narrative as presented and try to blame the officers strikes me as sickening and stupid though. They get to live with shooting the guy, which is not a picnic. There is more than one way to be victimized by violence.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:41 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Shoot and I just tailed onto the derail. I should have just said I wonder if BART included communication interruption as part of the contract for locating cells in the actual station?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:43 PM on August 12, 2011


I think the more important issue here is that BART KEEPS SHOOTING PEOPLE

Dead people who aren't me = unfortunate, disruption from updating my Twitter feed? OUTRAGE!
posted by yeloson at 5:52 PM on August 12, 2011


Standard "I am not a lawyer" disclaimer applies, but it looks like turning off the cell phone boosters might be a violation of federal law.
posted by bugmuncher at 6:05 PM on August 12, 2011


Haven't read the whole thread yet and I am not receiving cell service at this time.
I do have a question for any of you that may have cell phone service:

Why have you not called your service provider and complained?

Something like this:

"I don't appreciate you intentionally shutting off service for anyone when they are paying customers for that service. If I ever hear of you doing anything like this in my area I'll [insert threat of choice, e.g. "switch to a Skype phone", "switch to Credo's service" (they lease Sprint's towers so I'm not sure about there full reliability), "stop using cell service all together" (yeah, I know, probably not going to happen), etc.].
posted by coolxcool=rad at 6:09 PM on August 12, 2011


it looks like turning off the cell phone boosters might be a violation of federal law

Not that law. The networks involved are not "operated or controlled" by the federal government, and it seems like it would be hard to prove they were "used or intended to be used for military or civil defense functions of the United States."
posted by grouse at 6:11 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


God damn it. I was hoping the answers in my ask.mefi question from a couple of days ago would have a bit longer to be 'what ifs'.
posted by gofargogo at 6:12 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, maybe it's a big deal about about the phones. I think the shooting should still be the big deal, not the thing we accept as normal.

Once someone is actively trying to stab people, they've escalated to lethal force. Therefore the appropriate weapon is the one that reliably makes them stop trying to stab people fastest, which I suspect is not the taser.

Wait, so when should tasers be used? Just for fun?

The taser is an alternative to the gun. In other words, the taser should only be used in situations where a gun would've appropriate before tasers existed. According to your comment, tasers shouldn't even be carried, because there's never a time where its appropriate to use them.

Ideally you train, train, train, train, and train some more so that you do the right thing instinctively.

Maybe your search skills are better than mine. From my search, standard training is anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days depending on how advanced training you get. But your "do the right thing instinctively" is indistinguishable from the term "panic".
posted by BurnChao at 6:14 PM on August 12, 2011


While complaining would feel good, I don't see the point. We're all locked into our dumb contracts and have to continue to pay the bill whether we're happy or not (or even live in the country of service...I'm looking at YOU, AT&T; or even have a danged phone at all...I'm looking at YOU, Vodafone). And what does the person on the other end do, other than say some socially acceptable version of "Noted." while muttering under their breath about how much they hate their job?
posted by iamkimiam at 6:15 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recommend protest organizers first Google "encrypted android sms" or "encrypted android im". We're decades overdue for popular encrypted personal communications.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:24 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Going way back upthread to the folks who justify BART's actions by the fact that they own the breaker box: take a moment to consider who provides power to the rest of our communications infrastructure, and how far you'd like to allow said interests, by a similar argument, to act in a similar fashion.
posted by 7segment at 6:26 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Were they honestly planning on holding the protest inside the station? Right on the platforms? I have no idea whether that is a civic right or not, but it seems a terrible idea. Wouldn't you essentially be kettling yourselves? And not particularly visible except to a bunch of pissed off commuters?

Of course, it's SOP around here. See Critical Mass.
posted by tremspeed at 6:31 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


justify BART's actions by the fact that they own the breaker box: take a moment to consider who provides power to the rest of our communications infrastructure, and how far you'd like to allow said interests, by a similar argument, to act in a similar fashion.

Oh, you mean people tossing there phones off the bridge, akin to the "burning bra", sit-ins, etc.

What do you mean.
posted by clavdivs at 6:32 PM on August 12, 2011


The taser is an alternative to the gun.

Nope. A Taser is a compliance device.
posted by Revvy at 6:33 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


there=thier
hmmm
posted by clavdivs at 6:34 PM on August 12, 2011


While complaining would feel good, I don't see the point. We're all locked into our dumb contracts and have to continue to pay

Not if you pay in advance. It's cheaper and I don't have to take any BS from the phone company.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:39 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nope. A Taser is a compliance device.

The taser is routinely abused as a compliance device, but it was originally introduced as a non-lethal alternative to the gun.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean that cell base stations, at least where I live, are powered off a municipal grid (albeit with some degree of on-site backup). And I find it intensely disquieting, the prospect that state interests might opt to disrupt civil communications by a very analogous argument regarding their ownership of the power distribution systems.
posted by 7segment at 6:51 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The taser is routinely abused as a compliance device

I tell you, I've had nothing but trouble with these newfangled compliance devices.
posted by Trurl at 6:57 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The taser is routinely abused as a compliance device, but it was originally introduced as a non-lethal alternative to the gun.

What was that punctuation mark for sarcasm, again? Seriously, though, when was the last time that the stated intent of something from a government agency actually matched the eventual (ab)use?
posted by Revvy at 7:05 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every police officer I've ever talked to about the taser considers it a substitute for nightstick, pepper spray or beanbag rounds. Not a substitute for a gun. Your local police may feel differently, but I doubt it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:07 PM on August 12, 2011


And if the protest had taken place, and the stations/platforms became overcrowded, and a mother with her stroller was pushed onto the tracks and run over by an incoming train, what would all of you whiners think? BART did the right thing.

In NYC we don't even have cell phone service let alone Wi-Fi (!!!) in our subway, and thank GOD for that.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:22 PM on August 12, 2011


And if the protest had taken place, and the stations/platforms became overcrowded, and a mother with her stroller was pushed onto the tracks and run over by an incoming train, what would all of you whiners think? BART did the right thing.

I would think it sucks that no one can call 911 with their cell phones. Guess what, people secured train stations before cell phones ever existed. The method is the problem here, not necessarily the goal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:30 PM on August 12, 2011


Seriously though, is this flash mob going to be bigger than the "flash mobs" that pile in to train stations all over the world after major sporting events? Stroller accidents seem rare!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:35 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if the protest had taken place, and the stations/platforms became overcrowded, and a mother with her stroller was pushed onto the tracks and run over by an incoming train, what would all of you whiners think? BART did the right thing.

BART hasn't done the right thing since one of their officers shot an unarmed man in the back who was laying on the ground and "resisting." Now they are abusing their power to infringe on First Amendment rights, which is a foundational principle to a free society.

Why do you want to talk about hypothetical justice instead of the real thing?
posted by notion at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"BART was not the only transit agency that took precautions this afternoon. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also announced that it had shut down regular cable car service on the Powell Street portion of the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines at 3:30 p.m."


"Demonstrations may disrupt BART train service during August commute periods in downtown San Francisco stations. Passengers should make alternative transportation plans in advance using the 511 Transit Trip Planner. Passengers may also make alternate plans on-the-go by using the Trip Planner at m.511.org. When making your trip plan, choose "Additional Options" and then exclude BART to find an alternative provider for your trip. Passengers are advised to keep checking 511.org for the latest information on potential service disruptions. For more information about potential transit disruptions, please click here."
posted by clavdivs at 9:06 PM on August 12, 2011


Wait wait wait....you can get cell service in a train station?!
posted by bloody_bonnie at 9:09 PM on August 12, 2011


BART hasn't done the right thing since ....

Is this true because if I have to google, you owe me a lollipop.
posted by clavdivs at 9:11 PM on August 12, 2011


yes you can, notion says it is in the first amendment.
posted by clavdivs at 9:11 PM on August 12, 2011


The courtesy phones still worked in the stations if there was an emergency.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:19 PM on August 12, 2011


Just saying, if anybody plans to try disrupting mass transit in NYC while I'm trying to go to work, you're getting kicked down onto the fucking third rail.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:22 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Passengers should make alternative transportation plans in advance using the 511 Transit Trip Planner. Passengers may also make alternate plans on-the-go by using the Trip Planner at m.511.org. When making your trip plan, choose "Additional Options" and then exclude BART..."

Man, I totally don't get California anymore. What are we supposed to do there? It's all don't smoke, can't marry, forget about getting high, don't bother with public transportation or finding a job or parking. DMV is on cutback schedule, btw. Also, watch out for tasers, state-bankrupting corporate-political scandals, rolling blackouts, service disruptions and oil blobs in the ocean...we've had a little oopsie or two. Oh, and park's closed.

It's like the whole state is aiming for losing or the booby prize.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:24 PM on August 12, 2011


I seldom rode BART when I lived in the Bay Area, the whole being underground in a place where there are very big earthquakes doesn't feel like a plan to me.

I left California over 20 years ago. I still think California has the makings of a total police state.

I had scary enough experiences riding the bus.

They have undercover police on the buses. There was a situation on a bus when I was helping take a group of children home from an after school field trip. there was a guy who got on the bus who smelled and looked terrible. Another guy got on the bus also pretty smelly and beyond unkempt. The first guy came up and very skillfully knocked the second guy over. He pulled a gun. Every passenger was terrified. I had three kids by me, my own and another child. I yanked them all under the seats and blocked them off with my body. Other kids got under the seats. The person in charge of the field trip and a couple other parents saw what was going on. They too shoved kids under seats. The guy with the gun yelled, 'I'm a police officer' and told us to vacate the bus. We all were more than glad to do it. We had a nose count on the sidewalk. We went the final 7 blocks on foot. This was back in about 1985. I see the insanity has not gone away. :(

Then there were no cell phones. This was the very dawn of the computer age.

2 years later I moved us out of the Bay Area. I have never regretted getting the Hell out.

I think protesting in close quarters, where you can't run away is fairly stupid. I also think BART turning off cell service on the RUMOR of a protest did not make a good move.

if there were a real protest shutting down cell service would not have prevented it.

To the doctor argument, doctors usefed to carry pagers.

Back before everyone had cell phones, I was helping in a voter registration drive. We were working a bad area. I suggested we 1. Only work in pairs, preferably one male one female, and 2. I suggested we purchase walkie talkies. A set of two good ones ran about $30 if you hit a good sale. This was so we could get help from each other, if for example someone ran into a gang house, or got heat stroke, or needed a bathroom break or food.
I had gotten two cheap sets for myself and the kids, toy ones. We used to use them very much the way families out and about use cell phones.

It's a lot harder to shut that down.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:35 PM on August 12, 2011


Man, I totally don't get California anymore.

iamkimiam: And a pit bull killed a pregnant woman in Pacifica.
posted by ambient2 at 9:53 PM on August 12, 2011


BART isn't obligated to provide cell service in their stations, right?

They install repeaters there as a service to people who use the stations.

They decided to turn them off, ostensibly to disrupt an incipient protest.

I'm not sure how you could come up with a law, or legal judgement based on the Constitution or preexisting law, that would force them to keep the repeaters on without collateral damage of some sort. Other than just passing a law that says that BART specifically is not allowed to ever turn its cell repeaters off.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:52 PM on August 12, 2011


Last Saturday there was a protest in Southern California over the police killing of a homeless man. I wonder if BART officials had that in mind when they made this decision.
posted by homunculus at 11:59 PM on August 12, 2011


I'm pretty sure you can't chop down that telephone pole that's in your front yard.

Yeah, that's an overly extreme example. But should be aware that there are a lot of services that can be on your property, and you still aren't allowed to sabotage. Besides phone, there's electricity, (fresh) water, sewage, garbage, and cable, off the top of my head. Even the less tangibles, like AM and FM radio signals, TV band signals, and whatever else is out there.

I don't see how this is any different (from a "right perform this action" viewpoint, not a "severity of this action" viewpoint) than pouring antifreeze and engine oil down a drain, throwing a battery away, cutting a wire to get free cable, starting a pirate radio station, etc...
posted by BurnChao at 3:14 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


ambient2: Yep, I read that yesterday as well. I don't even know what to think or where to start with that one.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:17 AM on August 13, 2011


I am internet outraged that those fascist corporate pigs took minor action to prevent a significant threat to public safety. The First Amendment specifically states that large groups of teenage apolitical thugs should have the right to threaten the livelihoods and safety of arbitrary working people just trying to get home whenever it seems like it would be fun to do. Is this America or not?? And as for those fascist BART authority fucks, earning upwards of $30,000 a year on the taxpayer dime, we gotta fight the system man. I'm sick of the elites - all those fat cats working at BART - screwing over the have-nots by temporarily disabling localized cell service. What if I needed to check my twitter? FUCK
posted by norabarnacl3 at 7:24 AM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, let's not forget... let's not forget, Dude, that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for uh, domestic, you know, within the city... that aint legal either.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:35 AM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone here who is so terribly concerned about the safety of "real" passengers who might get knocked onto the tracks by hordes of protesters has apparently never been on BART after a Giants game.
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on August 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Some lawprofs weigh in: Eugene Volokh finds the action constitutional, including BART's ban on protests on the platform (citing ISKCON v. Lee). Marvin Ammori likewise finds the ban constitutional (at least under current jurisprudence), though disagrees firmly with the wisdom of the action.
posted by factory123 at 1:27 PM on August 13, 2011


Hey hey hey guys, remember!

"It's not censorship if a private company does it!"
posted by symbioid at 6:35 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine shutting down a public communications infrastructure to prevent unwanted speech is legal and/or not a violation of Federal rules regarding the use of cell spectrum.

The problem here is the BART hierarchy, who have proved themselves dangerously incapable of managing a municipal transit system at least since Oscar Grant’s murder on New Year’s Morning 2009. These people should be made aware of their mistakes and relieved of their duties.

The "OMG WTF CALI!?" shots are really naive and irritating. Yeah, some stuff sucks but when do they not with yellow journalism? (More assertively) As far as I'm concerned, the Bay Area rocks the fuck out of many other places in the US, and if we can replace the bumblers currently calling the shots on BART with more skillful managers we’d be that much closer to mostly awesome.
posted by mistersquid at 6:55 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's just a conspiracy to make people hate public transit, so the join the Tea Party Agenda of CARS CARS CARS!
posted by symbioid at 7:00 PM on August 13, 2011


No way, cell phones in cars create accidents every day. Since the precedent has been established that cell phones can be cut off to prevent accidents...well you know what comes next. :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:02 PM on August 13, 2011


jabberjaw writes "Protest with your wallets."

How? It sounds like all providers in the area were affected. Unless one is willing to forgo cell service all together.

iamkimiam writes "While complaining would feel good, I don't see the point."
[...] "And what does the person on the other end do, other than say some socially acceptable version of 'Noted.' while muttering under their breath about how much they hate their job?"

It prevents BART and the providers from saying "We've shut down service lots of times and no one ever complains" as a justification for future shutdowns. I suggest CCing the FCC, city council, congressperson and senator, BART executive and their ombudsmen if they have one, and maybe a newspaper or two with your hard copy written complaint letters.
posted by Mitheral at 11:28 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now of course there is a *real* protest called for Monday at 5 pm at Civic Center to protest BART's actions in shutting down phone service, and Anonymous is getting in on the action.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:33 AM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not censorship if a private company does it!

BART is a government entity, not a private company.
posted by grouse at 7:17 AM on August 14, 2011


I'm curious, how did this story get reported? How did the information that BART disrupted cell service get to a reporter / blogger?
posted by Nelson at 8:18 AM on August 14, 2011


I'm curious, how did this story get reported? How did the information that BART disrupted cell service get to a reporter / blogger?

Hint: Click the first link.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:35 AM on August 14, 2011


No need to be snide, I read all the links. Was the first mention of the story the press release from BART? If so, it seems very interesting they'd proactively disclose that they shut off the cell network. Why say anything?
posted by Nelson at 10:48 AM on August 14, 2011


Probably because they didn't think they were doing anything wrong.
posted by empath at 10:50 AM on August 14, 2011


BART stations are technically private property

I'd be interested in knowing -exactly- how that works in the case of a government-funded, government-run transit district. IANAL but questions like prior restraint and freedom of assembly naturally come to mind in a country often termed a democracy.
posted by Twang at 12:10 PM on August 14, 2011


There is lots of government property that you aren't allowed to assemble freely on. Highways, for example.
posted by empath at 12:40 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


MyBart seems to have been tagged.
posted by telstar at 2:31 PM on August 14, 2011


I swear BART PD and SFPD have a secret competition to see how many young, black kids they can shoot before they're disbanded. If there is one going on BART PD are winning at a total of two.

It took them 23 seconds after arriving at the scene to shoot Charles Hill. 23 seconds to decide that he was a dangerous menace that didn't warrant using a taser on but a gun.

The day I heard it on the radio all I could think was "Holy fucking shit BART PD. You go through the Oscar Grant trial and now we have this stupid shit ALL OVER AGAIN. What the fuck are you doing with your transit cops down there?"
posted by Talez at 2:41 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anonymous has hacked myBART, releasing thousands of customers' info.

Frankly, I don't see how this helps. While I am not at all a fan of what BART did, this is just harming a bunch of people who weren't involved.
posted by movicont at 12:49 AM on August 15, 2011


So you've met Anonymous?
posted by mek at 1:21 AM on August 15, 2011


I donno, initially the myBART hack sounds more well targeted than usual for anonymous. I'd imagine it raises awareness of the BART PD murders and BART phone shutdown among heavy BART users, and discourages them from from sharing their information with BART in the future. You might argue they should've kept going deeper until they found more incriminating stuff of BART, rather than tipping their hand now.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:28 AM on August 15, 2011


"There's other ways to protest," she said. "In my day, you bombarded them with letters."

Which was always super effective..
posted by empath at 6:04 AM on August 15, 2011


It saved Star Trek...for a year.
posted by clavdivs at 7:47 AM on August 15, 2011


So you've met Anonymous?
posted by mek

yes, yes, i see you point, have you?
posted by clavdivs at 7:56 AM on August 15, 2011


I swear BART PD and SFPD have a secret competition to see how many young, black kids they can shoot before they're disbanded.

Charles Hill was 45 and white...
posted by desjardins at 9:23 AM on August 15, 2011


codacorolla: Isn't this the type of situation where a wireless mesh network could be constructed in the environs of the protest to allow users to access an intranet that relays information within it?

Yes, although using a portable gateway would be easier and just as effective for small areas. It would have to be coordinated beforehand, but there are a number of options. Something like this could be set up to allow VoIP or text-based communication. If you needed to do it without an external device, peer-to-peer/mesh networking could probably be configured to allow communications over bluetooth and/or wifi with an app. It seems that there is no out-of-the-box support for ad-hoc wireless, but people are working on implementing it. Future technology such as Bluetooth 3.0 will offer better native support for P2P communication. The chip maker Qualcomm is also currently working on a form of mesh networking using the cellular frequencies that mobile phones operate on, giving a much wider range.

Of course, when you're communicating about sensitive matters, some form of encryption is nice. I'm a big fan of off-the-record messaging (which also provides deniability and other goodies).The gibberbot application (cuurently alpha) supports it on Android.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:24 AM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


“This is a transit agency, and our job is not to censor people,”
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on August 15, 2011


And still no clarity on whether there's any regulation at all on them doing this:

"The FCC has not returned repeated calls for comment."
"“My gut tells me there’s something wrong with it,” Radulovich said."
"While it appears that BART did not violate the specific federal law against jamming cellphone signals, it's not clear exactly what agreements BART has with cellphone companies or if BART has a written policy for shutting off service."

Someone get a goddamn lawyer on this so we can at least answer this one seemingly simple question.
posted by GuyZero at 12:20 PM on August 15, 2011


Love the finger-pointing in that statement from the BART Board of Directors. Can't wait for the BART PD to release a statement along the lines of "We briefed the BART Board of Directors of our plan and received full agreement and cooperation."
posted by muddgirl at 12:45 PM on August 15, 2011


Essex Police Arrest Man Over Blackberry Water Fight Plan
posted by jeffburdges at 1:24 PM on August 15, 2011


I long for the good old days when it was three albinos in a tank predicting our future crimes.
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on August 15, 2011


Something just occurred to me.

Wouldn't the bulk of the coordination of the protest have occurred elsewhere? What good is shutting down communications at the proposed site of the protest? Everyone shows up to protest only to throw in the towel because they can't get phone reception? Big protests might benefit from a "cheese it! it's the fuzz!" twitter feed, but this one?

The main effects I can see BART's actions having are preventing non-protesters from finding out what the hell is going on, preventing non-protesters from calling their destination to say they'll be late, preventing 911 calls...

I just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:40 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, it makes no sense at all.

It's an action of questionable legality.

Nobody would have likely noticed if they had not issued a press release saying they did it.

It's not very likely that it had any effect on the protest (I.E. unlike BART's tiger-repellent rocks)

The batshit insanity of the situation is offset by its complete lack of any perceptible impact.
posted by GuyZero at 1:43 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

The typo speaks the truth!

posted by Sys Rq at 1:45 PM on August 15, 2011


I only just noticed this op has some cute artwork.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:24 PM on August 15, 2011


SF subway closes stations during peaceful protest
posted by homunculus at 7:54 PM on August 15, 2011


Charles Hill was 45 and white...

I'm getting him mixed up with that kid that was killed for fare evasion on Muni. My apologies.
posted by Talez at 9:12 PM on August 15, 2011


PC World : FCC Looks into BART Mobile Phone Shutdown
posted by crunchland at 10:26 PM on August 15, 2011


How Did BART Kill Cellphone Service? The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system initially claimed a phone service shut-down was performed by telecoms, but that's not the latest story
posted by homunculus at 11:43 AM on August 17, 2011


Hackers Expose San Francisco Subway Police Data

BART Police Website Hacker Claims to Be French Girl Doing First Hack
posted by homunculus at 5:48 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The right of access to phone service is a settled part of Federal telecommunications law. Yes, this specifically includes cell phones.

BART violated both California and Federal law with what they did:
Americans rely on their phone service remaining stable, dependable, and available at all times. Yes, everyone knows the frustration of dropped calls. But it is one thing to experience a dropped call or overloaded network. It is another thing for local authorities to decide to cut off service on their own initiative, without any restraint or oversight, for whatever reason they find compelling.

More than seventy years ago, Congress made a choice to take that option away from local authorities. It conferred jurisdiction on the FCC and the state Public Utility Commissions to provide oversight, and gave everyone a federally protected right to access the phone network. That right applies to all phone networks, whether wireline or wireless. Somebody might want to point that out the BART Directors on Wednesday.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:47 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anonymous Circulates NSFW Photos Of BART Spokesman Linton Johnson
posted by homunculus at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2011


Between people calling Johnson a 'self-conflicted blackie' and now outing his NSFW sexy pics to hound him out of his job, the protesters are not looking any more principled than BART. My over-50 in-laws, who speak little English, are frightened to take the subway. Neither side has any real claim to the moral high ground here.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:20 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Between people calling Johnson a 'self-conflicted blackie' and now outing his NSFW sexy pics to hound him out of his job, the protesters are not looking any more principled than BART.

When the protesters are paid by public monies and issued firearms and the power to detain citizens then I'll start worrying about whether they reach the moral standards I expect from public employees/organizations.
posted by phearlez at 9:06 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that BART spokesperson Linton Johnson was issued firearms and the power to detain citizens!
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on August 26, 2011


Are you really confused by this or are you just being disingenuous? The phrase was "any more principled than BART" not "any more principled than BART spokesperson Linton Johnson."

Protesters are accountable to themselves. If they behave repugnantly that's unfortunate and reflects poorly on them. However it doesn't make their case wrong, it just makes them jerks. But at least they're being jerks in their own name and on their own dime, unlike government agencies.

It is an affront to the civilized person when someone kills an innocent person. When the government does it using our money and the authority we lend it in the social contract that is an additional crime above and beyond.

tl;dr: Hitler liked dogs. That doesn't make them bad. Shitty protesters doesn't make their cause invalid.
posted by phearlez at 9:36 AM on August 26, 2011


But at least they're being jerks in their own name and on their own dime

Aren't they being jerks in the name of the organization with which they are affiliated (ie Anonymous)?

I know that Anonymous likes to have it both ways (they are an organization, unless they are a loose collection of individuals, except when someone tries to speak for them, in which case that person isn't 'Anonymous').
posted by muddgirl at 12:07 PM on August 26, 2011


Beyond that, I think what you're trying to say is that we should hold BART to a higher standard than Anonymous, and as someone who's not a member of Anonymous, I agree.

But people who ARE affiliated with Anonymous (and who, statistically, do not pay taxes to the BART organization), should probably disagree.
posted by muddgirl at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2011


If they behaved, they wouldn't need to be Anonymous.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:21 PM on August 26, 2011


There are lots of reasons to be anonymous that don't involve being bad.
posted by Mitheral at 2:51 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm more just saying that the protesters not looking any more principled than BART is irrelevant (except perhaps to themselves, as you point out). They are not the issue. They do not represent The People. They are no more relevant to the legitimacy of the complaint than the quality of newsprint is to the accuracy of the facts in the story printed on it.

The time spent talking about the protesters is time not spent talking about those being protested. Which I am sure BART is thrilled by, but I don't think anyone who opposes their action should be happy with it.
posted by phearlez at 3:01 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The time spent talking about the protesters is time not spent talking about those being protested.

This seems to be arguing that the actions of protesters don't matter if they think the crime is heinous enough. Should we stop talking about pro-life protesters that block access to abortion clinics (or threaten abortion providers, or even bomb clinics), since it's not time spent talking about abortion?
posted by muddgirl at 6:25 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's an interesting parallel to me, given that I personally don't think of abortion as murder and support choice. But given that I think it's instructive.

If you're of the camp that thinks all abortion is murder then yes, I suspect you'd similarly not want to divert talk from the actions of the clinic. You'd probably also think that even if you oppose killing to stop abortions that the actions of the clinic - which conducts its business most days - is worse than a renegade protester who does some sort of one-off action.

So I suspect a pro-life person would feel the same way as I do about drawing the BART comparison.
posted by phearlez at 2:56 PM on August 27, 2011


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