WHAT DO YOU MEAN THESE IDIOTS MESSED WITH THE PHONE SYSTEM
August 26, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Why Shutting Down Cell Service Is Not Just Against The Law, It's a Really Bad Idea (previously)
posted by j03 (161 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good read. Nice to see good information on the legal situation surrounding this kind of government action.
posted by Argyle at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2011


Shutting off phones to quell a mob or riot also prevents most people in or near that mob or riot from phoning for police or other help. Bad idea all around, legally and practically.
posted by resurrexit at 8:05 AM on August 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


Don't shut off the phone system because when you do, it will shut off the phone system. .. And it's against the law and stuff.
posted by p3t3 at 8:07 AM on August 26, 2011


Occasionally, I love lawyers. Also, way to go Alabama Supreme Court:
The present tendency and drift towards the Police State gives all free Americans pause. The unconstitutional and extra-judicial enlargement of coercive governmental power is a frightening and cancerous growth on our body politic. Once we assumed axiomatic that a citizen was presumed innocent until proved guilty. The tendency of governments to shift the burden of proof to citizens to prove their innocence is indefensible and intolerable.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:08 AM on August 26, 2011 [40 favorites]


Like one of the commenters said, I think the angle BART is going to try for is that these were "their" private network extenders and not the telco's. So, in this way, they were not infering with the phone system proper, only "their" gift of additional service in station. I think that's an awfully weird position to stand on, because didn't they get "their" extenders from the wireless operators themselves?
posted by cavalier at 8:10 AM on August 26, 2011


I'm BART's cellular system, who the hell are you?
posted by brain_drain at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


The Guardian has done some analysis of tweets sent in the key riot areas around the time of the riots, they suggest that while traffic increased substantially in an area after a riot had started that there was no signficiant sign of an upswing in twitter activity in the area prior to the event, suggesting that the social network was being used reactively but was not a proactive driver of riot activity. Date here, article here. A number of other articles concerning social network censoring issues and the English riots here.
posted by biffa at 8:18 AM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


They talked about this on NPRs Talk of the Nation earlier in the week, tho I can't find the link at the moment. The guest defending the shut down was infuriating.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2011


Isn't that "previously" thread still open?
posted by Plutor at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2011


If its OK for BART to shut down the cell service, would it be OK for public schools to block cell phone signals in classrooms? Or can I get a (currently illegal) cell phone jammer to use at my home?
posted by TDIpod at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2011


Welcome to Post-Legal America
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:54 AM on August 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Haha, "the law". Just words. Blah blah blabbity blah.

Do first, don't bother to ask forgiveness, and fight like hell in court, you have a better than 50% chance of winning if the State has an interest in it.
posted by Xoebe at 8:54 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I shut down my AT&T microcell, will I be a criminal? Is this a tort or a criminal act?

If AT&T's cell nodes here in my neighborhood are ever without service, can I sue them? Who will be arrested?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:23 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does this mean I have to uninstall the faraday cage from my dining room now?
posted by straight at 9:26 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I shut down my AT&T microcell, will I be a criminal? Is this a tort or a criminal act?

I dunno, Threeway Handshake. Can you cut the telephone wires that run above or beneath your house, thereby preventing all of your neighbors down the street from phone access? I mean, it's on your property.

This is just an analogy. It is not perfect. I do not know if there are laws or regulations that deal with wireless technology the way there are with wired telephonic services (i.e. easements, etc.), but it's kind of the same thing.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:28 AM on August 26, 2011


Does this mean I have to uninstall the faraday cage from my dining room now?

Good point! Should builders be held liable for creating buildings that have poor reception inside?

In NYC, our subways have no cell service (except for in one station, I believe), can NYC MTA be held liable for that?

I dunno, Threeway Handshake. Can you cut the telephone wires that run above or beneath your house, thereby preventing all of your neighbors down the street from phone access? I mean, it's on your property.

No I may not cut lines. That is property destruction. And I don't own those lines, they are not on "my property" as the service provider would have an easement on the parts of my property those lines are on. I'm shutting an electronic device off; it can be turned on again. Assume in my case that my neighbors upstairs also use the microcell.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:31 AM on August 26, 2011


Such outrage. BART provides supplementary cell service as a courtesy, right? Shouldn't it be their right to temporarily discontinue their coverage that they're providing as a courtesy to their customers? Especially when safety issues are involved? This doesn't equal a police state, we shouldn't off the pigs, etc., etc.,

> Shutting off phones to quell a mob or riot also prevents most people in or near that mob or riot from phoning for police or other help

Then what did people do before the ubiquity of mobile phones? Isn't there some kind of '911' function in the cars or way to communicate a threat to the outside?

My apartment complex used to provide free cable. They're also planning on doing away with the community pool. Does that mean I can sue the management company or end my lease because these things were understood to be provided to me? They're not mentioned in the lease. (For the record, I doubt it, although I could probably work out a deal with them if I were truly incensed about either issue--which I'm not.)

Most importantly - does this mean that I can sue WMATA the next time I'm in DC because my AT&T phone doesn't work but my Verizon phone does? /hamburger
posted by ostranenie at 9:33 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then what did people do before the ubiquity of mobile phones? Isn't there some kind of '911' function in the cars or way to communicate a threat to the outside?

There are landline phones at all stations. There are emergency buttons and intercoms on trains.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2011


If I shut down my AT&T microcell, will I be a criminal? Is this a tort or a criminal act?

Neither because your AT&T microcell is not a Title II service since it only works with registered IMEIs.
posted by Talez at 9:35 AM on August 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


What were the protests about?

It's interesting what captures our attention...
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2011


Shutting off phones to quell a mob or riot also prevents most people in or near that mob or riot from phoning for police or other help.

That's an easy fix. Tell the towers to go to 911 and Priority user mode, and shut down the data handlers to dedicate bandwidth to phone. This system already exists.
posted by eriko at 9:44 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


What were the protests about?

These were not protests; people were trying to shut the BART train system down.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aren't mobile phones more a convenience than anything? What are people doing that's of earth-shattering importance on their mobile phones on the train? Reading Kanye's tweets? Srsly.
posted by ostranenie at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2011


Such outrage. BART provides supplementary cell service as a courtesy, right? Shouldn't it be their right to temporarily discontinue their coverage that they're providing as a courtesy to their customers? Especially when safety issues are involved? This doesn't equal a police state, we shouldn't off the pigs, etc., etc.,

Actually, as is explained quite thoroughly over the course of the text of the linked article that is the subject of this FPP, no. Seventy years of settled case law and federal regulations pretty much unequivocally say no, wrong, opposite of correct and or of accurate:
"Like the Attorney General in Brophy, the BART is an instrumentality of the State of California. As in Brophy, the mere allegation that someone (or some group of someones) may use their phone for illegal purposes most emphatically does not confer authority to unilaterally shut off access to the phone network – even if that phone network is physically located within the BART. Why? Because the BART is an instrumentality of the state of California and is geographically in California. There is no BARTistahn, and the Directors do not get to decide this on their own...

[I]t 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. [emph mine] That right applies to all phone networks, whether wireline or wireless."
The "supplemental courtesy [as you frame it] comes with regulations and settled case law with regards to how one is allowed to implement it, what rights one has AND DOES NOT HAVE with regards to said implementation, once one chooses to be "courteous".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:51 AM on August 26, 2011 [32 favorites]


That's an easy fix. Tell the towers to go to 911 and Priority user mode, and shut down the data handlers to dedicate bandwidth to phone. This system already exists.

You can't do this under s.214 without the FCC's permission and under the law they're required to consider the public convenience and necessity not the abritrary whims of a third party. This of course can be thrown out the window in the cases of a real emergency not an imagined one on behalf of a BART spokesperson.
posted by Talez at 9:56 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


there is no limit, it will be fixed.
posted by nvsr4u at 9:59 AM on August 26, 2011


Are phones a right or a privilege? Discuss.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2011


1. Mobile phones are some peoples only means of communication, not everyone has a land line. Regardless of how you "feel" about whether this is "important" or not, this means of communication is protected by federal statutes.

2. If you have a personal microcell "extender" in your home or business, feel free to shut it down as you please. However, BART is not a home or business, BART is a public entity which makes them subject to laws you as a private home or business consumer are not. This is a point made in the article I feel many are missing.

3. If AT&T's cell towers or home phone lines for that matter are down for a significant amount of time, they do ultimately get fined by the FCC. Again, there are laws that provide this protection to what is considered in by many in this nation to be a fundamental right, but perhaps not by you.
posted by j03 at 10:01 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Phones are a right as accorded by federal law passed by the duly elected Congress of the United States. If you truly feel this is not as it should be, feel free to petition your Congressperson to have these laws changed or repealed.
posted by j03 at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


ostranenie: "Most importantly - does this mean that I can sue WMATA the next time I'm in DC because my AT&T phone doesn't work but my Verizon phone does? /hamburger"

After October 2012, yes.

WMATA is a very special case, though, given just how much congress loves to fiddle with anything DC-related.

Also, I seriously hope that we get some laws on the books that require telco operators to make a good faith effort to provide service around the clock. I'm surprised that more of the debate hasn't revolved around this fact. I frankly don't care why BART turned off its cell network, or whether their transit system is considered a public forum. I do care that a pseudo-governmental entity was able to completely disable a large telecommunications system for an arbitrary reason.
posted by schmod at 10:08 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Pseudo-governmental?" There's nothing "pseudo" about it.
posted by ryanrs at 10:12 AM on August 26, 2011


It seems to me that the essential thing is, should the government or other organizations be able to solve problems by taking steps to prevent people from communicating? If it's legit to do that then the technical details of how it's accomplished don't seem to me to matter so much - whether or not the system used for communication happens to be centralized or whether the government agency involved happens to have access to a power switch that can turn the system on and off doesn't matter.

If we're going to open it up as legit and acceptable for the government to suppress communication for these or other purposes, that's such a powerful tool for managing all sorts of problems that the technicalities will get sorted out before too long... in the interest of public safety, of course.

I think it's a mischaracterization to talk about whether a particular type of telephone is a right or a privilege because technologies will come and go. It's the ability to stop people from communicating with each other to coordinate their actions that they'd seek; if it's kosher to have and use that ability the details of the mechanism for accomplishing it will get worked out.

Aren't mobile phones more a convenience than anything? What are people doing that's of earth-shattering importance on their mobile phones on the train? Reading Kanye's tweets? Srsly.

It seems pretty obvious to me that people were doing something important with these communication devices (like... communicating) if it was important for the BART people to stop them from doing it.
posted by XMLicious at 10:12 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow there are a lot of bad analogies here. Lack of a piece of infrastructure is not the same as tampering with existing infrastructure.
If there is not a bridge in a place, that might be annoying but it's hardly criminal. Now if I raise the bridge to stop some people going over it who I don't like but aren't committing a crime and I also end up backing up traffic during the rush hour commute, now that is a little more criminal.
As for an unexpected outage, i.e. I raise the bridge for a boat but the mechanics jam so I can't lower it, yes it still has negative effects but it was clearly not a malicious act.

So no you can't sue because there has not been cell repeated infrastructure added to your subway system yet. No you can't realistically sue in good faith if there is an equipment failure.
However neither of those is the same as deliberately shutting down equipment to interfere with infrastructure.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do not believe what BART did is legal, and I think there might even be a little blow-back in it for them. I also firmly believe that this will be happening again (and frequently) in other venues and around other technologies. The right to assemble and protest has been eroding furiously over the last 20 years. I suspect whatever comes out of this will include some push for cell services to be capable of some kind executive lock down mode, allowing emergency services but restricting data or other voice. In any case, if I was planning something sneaky and anti-government, I wouldn't put any faith in the integrity of what is, essentially, a government controlled data network.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing I always find remarkable about issues like this is that the people pulling the plug don't seem to understand that this is a weapon they can use against the people once or twice, and then the protesters will simply adopt a technology that can't be as easily controlled.

GMRS, or ad-hoc mesh netowrks, or CB, or Ham, or semaphore, or whatever. If people want to communicate, they will, and if you take away the easiest method for them to do that, the next time, it's going to be harder, and the time after that (metaphorically speaking) virtually impossible for you to stop them.

All they are doing is forcing people into adopting a more robust communications solution.
posted by quin at 11:54 AM on August 26, 2011


BART Protestors Oppression Envy


BART Protests: Police and Patrons Losing Patience


SFPD releases BART protesters' names, cities "One man, 27-year-old Ryan Ragle of Oakland, was booked into County Jail on suspicion of possessing an incendiary device, a felony, and obstructing a peace officer.

"Names of those arrested by San Francisco police Monday night during anti-BART protests. Unless otherwise indicated, those arrested were cited for obstructing traffic or disregarding police orders and were released. The name of one of the 35 people arrested was withheld because he is a juvenile."

***
The protestors are making no discernible difference to BART operations, and in fact are alienating people from their cause, and causing problems that make BART look good. BART surely needs improvement, but in the Bay Area there are WAY too many "protestors" who don't know what the hell they're doing, or who actually make things worse through their ill-considered protests. Some of these people - too many of them, in fact - are aimless in their protestations, and will show up anywhere where anyone is protesting authority. Pathetic. They give the very word "protest" a bad name. They are dysfunctional and just make things worse for everyone.

btw, I believe in public protest, but this effort is just short of laughable.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with these protests is that we are just talking about cell phones. I ask again, what were the protests about?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:00 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lisa got straight A's in school this year, and Maggie's learning how to walk...and Bart....hmmm....we love Bart.
posted by Chuffy at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


USA PATRIOT Act - localized testing of the waters?
posted by Chuffy at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2011


Sweet [a BART Board member] described the cut as a "huge issue," and went on to say "We don't get to stop people from communicating with each other, even... for protests." She said the protesters weren't going to go away, because "...they're protesting for the right reasons."
BART's Cell-Service Cuts: Not Egypt, But Not Quite America Either
posted by finite at 12:20 PM on August 26, 2011


The article cited but didn't link a case:

Pike v. Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., 81 So. 2d 254 - Ala: Supreme Court 1955

I find it curious that Bull Connor's complaint says

"Lewis Pike, white, male, lives at 1117 Thirteenth Avenue, South, and has telephone listed 4-3075 and 4-1420. Lewis Pike also operates a negro beer joint..."

but the article turns this into '“a negro” of “questionable character”'

--

There's quite a contrast between the law covering phone service to alleged criminals (only a PUC can disable service to a paying customer) and the debate over domain name seizures.
posted by morganw at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2011


> Actually, as is explained quite thoroughly over the course of the text of the linked article that is the subject of this FPP, no. Seventy years of settled case law and federal regulations pretty much unequivocally say no, wrong, opposite of correct and or of accurate

It still sounds to me like BART (the entity/business/organization that enjoys government subsidies and thus has to put up with government regulation) puts forth their 'piece' of the communications infrastructure a courtesy to their customers. It isn't a requirement that using their services--it's a perk. Thanks to their implementation and repeaters and other sophisticated gadgetry, you can Facebook and Twitter and all that while you're riding the rails. If you have an actual serious problem (medical emergency, violence, harassment), you can likely get serious assistance quicker than you can with the use of a mobile phone with their pre-everyone-has-a-phone-now systems. Making it an issue out of "well, they provided it so far, so they always must provide it or TEH POLICE STATE IS TRAMPELING ALL OVAR MAH FRIST AMNEMDNET RITES!!!11!1" is wrong. This isn't martial law. Back it up with as many legal settled whosamawhatsises and regulations as you want--wireless on the BART is a nonessential service and they (whoever runs BART) ought to be able to shut it down. It isn't the power grid and you won't let all the ghosts out. It isn't the water supply or the electricity. Seriously, what are you missing out on by having no wireless while on BART? What can't wait until you are in an area supported by your carrier's towers, the ones you're paying good money and a lot of it to maintain?

(deep breath) All that aside, it seems like BART disabling wireless is a very "fuck you, we have control" vulgar display of power over the masses to show you how they will not put up with protesters' bullshit. I don't like innocent people getting shot but I don't think disrupting a public transportation system is the right way to prevent it, either. My opinion, though - I don't care much for public not-quite-peaceful protests in any situation. If I rode the BART and enjoyed their wireless while en route, I sure wouldn't appreciate it being shut off because of protestors whose cause I didn't care about or whose methods I didn't agree with. Ultimately this and the way the open letter from BART were worded seems like it was designed to sway public opinion against the protestors. (tl;dr: "You want to protest and disrupt our operation? No wireless for everyone until you behave.")
posted by ostranenie at 12:59 PM on August 26, 2011


> The protestors are making no discernible difference to BART operations, and in fact are alienating people from their cause, and causing problems that make BART look good
> They give the very word "protest" a bad name


This is the impression I got from my limited viewpoint. This isn't the Sixties. You aren't being held down by The Man. (Not as much, anyway.) Protestors: you're doing it wrong.

> GMRS, or ad-hoc mesh netowrks, or CB, or Ham, or semaphore

Quick derail: I'm actually wondering here how come nobody's implemented a software-driven 802.11n voice network, especially in major metropolitan areas like DC or SFBA or NYC. (No, Skype doesn't count.) Maybe when the magic bullet/panacea known as DIDO rolls out (the comm system, not the singer) we will have the bandwidth necessary for this. (Of course, if he's right, we'll all be HD videoconferencing with everyone, so--yeah, I know, totally impossible, right?--but here's the white paper.)
posted by ostranenie at 1:10 PM on August 26, 2011


Regardless of the exact level of competence of the protesters and what sort of bureaucratic duck the BART law enforcement quacks like, there is only one question for the average citizen to answer: Do you want more actions like these in the future, or fewer? There is only one knob to turn. Nuance and context are lost in the noise.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:20 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


> In any case, if I was planning something sneaky and anti-government, I wouldn't put any faith in the integrity of what is, essentially, a government controlled data network.

I think that's the point of the shutdown. BART is saying "you're not allowed to do that on a network that we maintain and have the ability to shut down, and we are punishing everyone by denying them access for a while."

> It seems pretty obvious to me that people were doing something important with these communication devices (like... communicating) if it was important for the BART people to stop them from doing it.

By "people," do you mean "the protestors who were using the mobile services provided by BART for ostensible nefarious means" or "people who use wireless communications for business and personal reasons"? It says in their open letter that people were specifically planning to coordinate the protest and circumvent security.

> There is only one knob to turn

Conversely, do I want more or less protestors unexpectedly messing up my daily commute for reasons I don't necessarily understand or care about? I'd rather be able to surf the web on the rails, but if I can't, I'm inconvenienced at best. If temporarily disabling what I view as a nice-to-have stops the protestors, if that's what it takes--that's OK by me. People chaining themselves to trains? Not fucking okay. Not for the reasons they cite. (Why not go protest in front of the police station, or march, or something instead of ruining everyone's day at the train station?)

Now if they raised their fees or started making me go through a metal detector or submitting to patdowns, I'd probably start going apeshit and join some protests myself, because I think those are extreme measures. But making something slightly less convenient to stop something very inconvenient and at times unsafe, that seems justifiable to me, personally.
posted by ostranenie at 1:32 PM on August 26, 2011


One of those articles made me think of a troll comment, which I must now share: you know where else the trains ran on time?
posted by ostranenie at 1:35 PM on August 26, 2011


Oh, and this in particular. Oppressive regimes? Are you serious?
posted by ostranenie at 1:43 PM on August 26, 2011


BART tackles its 'Big Brother' moment
posted by homunculus at 1:45 PM on August 26, 2011


I ask again, what were the protests about?

BART police have had problem restraining themselves when it come to shooting unarmed people. A few weeks after Johannes Mehserle wrist bruise healed and was released, BART officers shot a drunk person with a bottle weapon and was shot no less than two minutes after his encounter with police. BART police chief felt 'comfortable' with the officers action.

So we protested, and the BART police don't exactly like being told to off, so the next protest was a response to BART's disregard to our treatment and shutting the cell service. Its become a positive feedback loop, from BART police having little regard for life, to BART directors tone-deafness and overreaching response to criticism.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Making it an issue out of "well, they provided it so far, so they always must provide it or TEH POLICE STATE IS TRAMPELING ALL OVAR MAH FRIST AMNEMDNET RITES!!!11!1" is wrong. This isn't martial law. Back it up with as many legal settled whosamawhatsises and regulations as you want--wireless on the BART is a nonessential service and they (whoever runs BART) ought to be able to shut it down.

Commenting many times in a row doesn't make you any less wrong. And this is very, very wrong. It's quite clear that BART does not have the right to selectively deny service, as the original link notes. Telecommunications infrastructure enjoys many special rights in the USA, and BART clearly infringed on them in a way that is quite illegal.
posted by mek at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You guys (somehow) defending BART, the definitive word in this thread has already been spoken.
posted by JHarris at 2:13 PM on August 26, 2011


Brilliant analysis.

BART provides supplementary cell service as a courtesy, right?

Not according to the law. Once an entity offers telephone service, it becomes a carrier under federal law and it loses the right to turn off cell service.

Here's how to play the game.

bureaucracies like BART are designed to take your complaints head on and throw them aside.

They aren't designed to defend against collateral attack. Hence, you need to put pressure on them where it hurts--the money.

BART provides cell service for money. From the cell providers. So you attack that joint. Everyone should call into their provider and complain about their service being shut down there and say they are thinking about changing providers. If the services provide the equipment, find out who provides the equipment for that cell point, and hammer them with complaints.

Second, the BART board of directors is elected. That's right, elected. Here's a listing. So, find out who your BART Board Member is and write a letter indicating how you think the shutdown is illegal, paraphrasing the legal reasoning in this article. Rewrite, don't cut and paste. Encourage your friends to do the same, indicating that you will not vote for them if they vote for a procedure that does not follow the law as written as applies to shutdowns in the future. That's the most important thing you can do--change the policy from here on out.

BART likely needs a permit from someone, somewhere to run the cell points. Write to that licensing authority, asking that an investigation be opened up on the basis of the points made in the blog post. Again, rewrite, don't cut and paste. Indicate that if the investigation finds that the shutdown was done in violation of law, that BART's license be revoked.

Finally, write your local representatives, the California Attorney General and the FCC. For the FCC and the California Attorney general, ask that an investigation be opened, using the reasoning provided in the blog post.

The key is to strike at points where BART interacts with other groups--those groups will do the bitching for you. BART can easily deflect your complaints. The FCC, not so much. And the people on the BART Board want to keep those spots. So hit them hard, especially focusing on your rep, and on ones who are up for re-election soon.

I think its stupid to protest an individual shooting. But BART was wrong in turning off the cell service. If the protest was illegal, the job of BART is to arrest those disrupting service, not to turn off the cell service.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:08 PM on August 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


"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. [emph mine] That right applies to all phone networks, whether wireline or wireless.""

Tough! In this case I support BART's civil disobedience, and so do many, many thousands of Bay Area commuters who have to get home to their sick kids; to pick up their kids from after-school care; to care for their aging parents; to make a night school class; to get to their second job; to make it to their early evening doctor's appointment; to make it to their AA meeting; to attend their City Council meeting; to just put up their feet after a long day; or, to get home on time, without hassle because it is THEIR right to do so. The BART protestors can go fuck themselves. These are the same clowns who reflexively protest all over the Bay Area, no matter the cause - as long as it's against the "authorities". They have a right to protest, but I'm goddamned happy that BART isn't letting them use MY tax money to enable their feeble protest, a protest that would be far more effective if it was carried out on a way that garnered support for from the public for BART to improve certain parts of its operation - including security - rather than turning people *against* the very thing that these stupid protestors think they're accomplishing.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:12 PM on August 26, 2011


Now we're calling what BART did "civil disobedience"? Wow.

Of course, we have always been at war with Eastasia.
posted by Lexica at 3:30 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Threeway Handshake dismissively stated These were not protests; people were trying to shut the BART train system down.

Broad comments like this contribute neither to the discussion of the cell interruption, police abuse, government responsibility to criticism and citizens, or democracy as a whole.

If wanna be shitty about people right to express their grievances, there are parts of the Internet that are more accommodating to these points of view. Try some domains ending in .ly or .sy.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2011


Vibrissae tolerates the rights of others, until they pose a minor inconvenience to him. Good to know.
posted by mek at 3:40 PM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


sort of derail
My apartment complex used to provide free cable. They're also planning on doing away with the community pool. Does that mean I can sue the management company or end my lease because these things were understood to be provided to me? - ostranenie

Taking away services that were provided at the time of the lease (whether specifically written into the lease or not) is considered equivalent to a rent increase in many municipalities. If your municipality is one such place, and if they have any regulations or by-laws regarding timing of and advance notice of rental increases that your management company neglected to comply with, then yes, you can sue them for rent that you've over-paid since they removed the services, or for the ability to quit your lease, or whatever other remedy is allowed in your municipality.
/sort of derail

Actually not a bad analogy given Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey's explanation of the legal situation vis a vis provision of cell phone service.

Regarding whether or not this *should* be the legal situation (around withdrawal of services in an apartment complex, or cell phone coverage in BART stations): you might think that the pool is a frivolous service just as some folks view cell phone service in BART stations, and may not feel a personal loss at the removal of this service; but it's hard to make a law that distinguishes between, "well, if they remove service X then that's bad, but removing service Y is okay", especially if you want the law to apply to, say, future technology that hasn't been invented yet.
posted by eviemath at 3:44 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with these protests is that we are just talking about cell phones. I ask again, what were the protests about?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:00 PM on August 26


I think the point of this particular FPP is that it doesn't matter what the protests were about. The discussion here is about the legality of BART removing cell phone service, regardless of the circumstances.

I think that XMLicious made a very good point that even the fact that we're talking about the specific communication mode of cell phones is merely a technical detail, as well.
posted by eviemath at 3:49 PM on August 26, 2011


Vibrissae tolerates the rights of others, until they pose a minor inconvenience to him. Good to know.

Oh, boy, is this a perfect example of the kettle calling the pot black, or what? "Minor inconvenience"? And who is anyone to judge the relative convenience of the disruption of a citizen's right to, in this case, have unfettered, timely access to public transportation? Did you read any of the posts I put up here? A lot of people think that THEIR rights are being violated by protestors who interrupt the right to free movement and public transport in a public space. Those citizens support the actions of BART, as I do - and judging from the reaction to these protests, it looks like you happen to be in the vast minority relative who has more moral weight in this situation. You don't share my view; that's OK, but I'm not making larger insinuations about your general view towards the rights of others. If you don't like what BART did, find a way to let them know without interrupting the rights of innocent civilians who mostly don't share your views; that's not "protesting", it's using free speech to bully one's way into public notice, like a spoiled child who's not getting his way.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:00 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


one wonders what a similar argument would be against rosa parks, disrupting bus times because she is too good to sit in the back of the bus. Of course that is a minor issue (where you are allowed to sit) in comparison to people being killed, but whatever you know, cause I got to get home to my sick kids! FUCK YOU ANON!
posted by Shit Parade at 4:05 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


And who is anyone to judge the relative convenience of the disruption of a citizen's right to, in this case, have unfettered, timely access to public transportation?

Please point to the federal laws which protect this right. I'd like to know who I can sue for my shitty commute.
posted by mek at 4:06 PM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


> GMRS

Yep. That'll work. Buy radios with the power & bands of GMRS but only use the FRS bands/power (1/2 watt) for casual use, saving the high power mode (which requires a cheap license) for shit hitting the fan. They sell these at sporting goods stores & big box retailers and they cost less than 1 month of smartphone service.

They'll work underground or aboveground. To communicate between the two, someone's gotta run up the escalator & deliver a message.

Shortwave ham could keep a revolution connected, but the radios are expensive & you can't use them casually without a license. VHF (2 meter) radios don't have much better range (miles per Watt) than GMRS unless you use repeaters and if you think BART likes to wield power by shutting off radio infrastructure, just see what a repeater operator (private though govt. licensed) thinks of your protest.

> 802.11n voice network

Too damned complicated. For coordinating cells, just use twitter hashtags1 and have people get internet connections catch-as-catch-can: cellular, wifi hotspots, payphone calls to people with landline internet.

[1] something decentralized without a "though shalt not break-uh the law-uh" EULA/TOS seems more important (and easier) to build than a whole wireless network and devices.
posted by morganw at 4:11 PM on August 26, 2011


Frustrated Commuters May Strike Back
posted by homunculus at 4:13 PM on August 26, 2011


"I think the point of this particular FPP is that it doesn't matter what the protests were about. The discussion here is about the legality of BART removing cell phone service, regardless of the circumstances."

But it does matter what the protests are about. It matters because any one person or group of persons could announce for any reason that they are going to use cell phone service to coordinate disruptions of BART, ad infinitum. What about that hypothetical. In certain cases, someone has to stand up and be an adult and say "you can protest, but I am not going to let you (a tiny minority of people - i.e. the protestors) use facilities that are paid for by all those who use the service to disrupt the majority who could care less about this particular group of protesters". Again, I support the BART action; am happy they did what they did, and hope they do it again if disruptions of public transportation are attempted again, by this or any other group. Also, I hope the police respond (without violence) to detain and arrest (if necessary) anyone who limits or hinders the free movement of civilians in their attempt to use public transportation. We have the ballot box, and we have many other places to protest our BART grievances; hindering our fellow citizen's right to unfettered access to public transport is violating the rights of those who want to use public transport in a safe and timely manner.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2011


If you don't like what BART did, find a way to let them know without interrupting the rights of innocent civilians who mostly don't share your views

Lets be clear on this, last Monday it was BART shutting down the stations preemptively, not protestors. Government agencys are fueled by status quo, and their not going let some lowly citizens tell them their cops should haven't gun or be allowed to shoot who they damn well please. So you have to keep shouting till they hear. If democracy is too loud for you best call the police and lodge a noise complaint.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:16 PM on August 26, 2011


San Francisco Crowds Celebrate Bay Area Police’s 6th Shooting
posted by homunculus at 4:19 PM on August 26, 2011


Frustrated Commuters May Strike Back

It is unclear who is behind the anti-protest Facebook page. Just three people "like" it.

I'm going to put a $5 chip on 'BART employee.'
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:21 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vibrissae, as I understand it, you are arguing that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways for the general public to respond to BART's actions.

Federal law apparently agrees with this principle, but applies it to BART: saying that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to for BART to respond to anticipated protestors' actions, and that pre-emptively shutting down all cell phone service in their stations in anticipation of a protest is not on the appropriate list.

You seem to indicate that what you would consider (ethically - not legally, because that is more clear-cut and less flexible) appropriate versus inappropriate responses from the general public would depend on exactly what actions of BART they were responding to. Written law, on the other hand, is not always capable of such nuance and flexibility. It has to worry about the worst-case scenario where disruption of established modes of communication (cell phone or otherwise) is used to quell legitimate and important rights of citizens, such as to free speech and free association. Yes, this time nobody's free speech or ability to organize with other citizens may have been materially impaired, but it's hard to make a (valid) law that applies on a case-by-case basis.

(Is this another thread that's going to devolve into two sides arguing past each other because one is talking about ethics and the other is talking about legality?)
posted by eviemath at 4:31 PM on August 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


one wonders what a similar argument would be against rosa parks, disrupting bus times because she is too good to sit in the back of the bus. Of course that is a minor issue (where you are allowed to sit) in comparison to people being killed, but whatever you know, cause I got to get home to my sick kids!

Apples and oranges. And, please don't demean the heroism of Rosa Parks by comparing her bold and courageous action with the interruptions of the people who are trying to upset BART operations because they're pissed about a guy who chose to throw a knife at a BART police officer in a crowded BART station.

Rosa Parks was a hero who made a difference; these protestors are attention whores. All protestors are not equal, and not all protests have equal moral weight.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:35 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently, eviemath. At least that way Vibrissae can maintain a good rage-on.
posted by mek at 4:37 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Written law, on the other hand, is not always capable of such nuance and flexibility. It has to worry about the worst-case scenario where disruption of established modes of communication (cell phone or otherwise) is used to quell legitimate and important rights of citizens, such as to free speech and free association. Yes, this time nobody's free speech or ability to organize with other citizens may have been materially impaired, but it's hard to make a (valid) law that applies on a case-by-case basis.

eveimath, thanks for a well-considered argument. I see this as a margin call made on behalf of protecting the safety of BART travelers. One of the protestors arrested had incendiary devices on his person, as one example. In this case, the safety rights of citizens was permitted to trump the rights of the protestors. I side with the citizens in this case, and support BART's call. Within the context that I'm presenting, this is not a mixture of morals with legality. Guaranteeing public safety is paramount.

Some will say that this is an "excuse to initiate a police state". I don't agree. That said, if I witnessed similar actions by other authorities to close down cell service to stop peaceful protests in a public place that has little or no chance of danger to others, I would be the first person to object (if others didn't get there before me).
posted by Vibrissae at 4:41 PM on August 26, 2011


At least that way Vibrissae can maintain a good rage-on

Mek, you are the one who is engaging in personal attack. Think about that. There's a difference between rage and an attempt at well-reasoned, passionate argument. I wish you well.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:42 PM on August 26, 2011


Protesters are citizens too, and it's laughable to "side with the citizens in this case, and support BART's call," given that BART is the one that has been, you know, killing citizens. If these were violent protests, it would be a different story, but they are not. You're choosing a faster commute over long-enshrined rights of communication which are now under attack, and the genuine safety of your fellow citizens, which has been repeatedly endangered by BART's behaviour which you are now cheerleading. There's nothing well-reasoned about that: I call it selfishness, plain and simple.
posted by mek at 4:49 PM on August 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


You're choosing a faster commute over long-enshrined rights of communication which are now under attack, and the genuine safety of your fellow citizens, which has been repeatedly endangered by BART's behaviour which you are now cheerleading.

I support a BART police officer using whatever means at hand to stop someone who is in possession of multiple knives and has thrown one of those knives directly, with great force, at a police officer with disregard for any citizens that were nearby.

I suggest you try taking a ride on BART, near certain platforms at certain times of day or night, and while fearing for your life or person, thinking hard about whether you feel more or less safe that a BART safety officer is nearby.

Citizens also have a long-enshrined right to public safety and free access to movement.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:06 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Problem: Dangerous object being tossed around near citizens.
Solution: Shoot bullets.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:18 PM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


> Mobile phones are some peoples only means of communication, not everyone has a land line

This argument holds no water here. This isn't about mobile phones in general. Nobody has a landline on BART--that'd be an awfully long wire. Mobile phones are strictly a convenience when it comes to BART--as far as I can tell, at least. (Yes, that matters.) For the record, I don't have a landline; I just use my mobile at home.

> If AT&T's cell towers or home phone lines for that matter are down

BART != AT&T. AT&T isn't going to shut its services down because someone, somewhere is doing something illegal. BART shut their service down because people were going to abuse its own mobile repeater system to disrupt BART. BART isn't a provider - it's a forwarder or a middleman. AT&T is a provider. Verizon's a provider. BART's comm system is a bridge.

> The right to assemble and protest has been eroding furiously over the last 20 years

The right to peaceably protest, you mean? And assemble to where it isn't screwing up a lot of peoples' commute, which is already a nightmare? And protest for an actual reason, instead of just "let's stick it to the Man because some things happened"? That isn't a reason, it's an excuse.

> Commenting many times in a row doesn't make you any less wrong

Or any less entitled to my opinion. Was what BART did illegal? I guess so, and all the legal eagles guess so, too. Was what they did wrong? I honestly don't think so. They temporarily shut down mobile service, which (unless someone can tell me a good reason otherwise) is little more than a convenient service. The fact that they are a "public telephone company" (who's subscribing, by the way? I don't think you pay extra for that service) and regulated by the FCC and the so-and-so and subject to this-or-that legal such-and-such makes it a no-brainer for a lot of people that denying the service is illegal, but my whole point is that it is inessential enough to shut down without anyone getting hurt or suffering damages that could be sued over. If Verizon shut off a part of their service, that would be a major problem for a lot of people, especially since they rely wholly on mobile phone service as is astutely pointed out above. Now, BART? You might not be able to text your significant other that the train is running late, or tweet about how you feel like Chinese tonight. It can wait.

> Of course, we have always been at war with Eastasia.

How long before someone just comes right out and says it? NAZI GERMANY. I ask again, can anyone tell me exactly why mobile service is so important on the rails? They didn't used to have it. Now they have it, and they are legally obligated to continue providing it because...why? Case law says so? Because people are used to it?

> Solution: Shoot bullets.

Problem: I am severely angered that a public official used deadly force on someone who may or may not have been armed. I want to let everyone know that I am incensed and change the system so this does not happen again.
Solution: Protest by disrupting public transit Write my representative. Blog. Voice my opinion anywhere it will be heard. Organize and assemble in front of a public building. Call the newspapers.

...But for crying out loud, don't make people late for work because you want to get a thrill by chaining yourself to a rail car, you goddamned attention whore. This isn't the civil rights movement. This isn't the police state. This is a lot of assholes (on both sides) being assholes. I am not condoning violence by anyone, especially not the police. But I don't like people who violate my rights by protesting violations of their own, especially when I think their cause is too insignificant by far to warrant any such actions.

In any event, BART just gave people another reason to protest. Let the IRL trolling begin.
posted by ostranenie at 7:54 PM on August 26, 2011


Solution: Protest by disrupting public transit Write my representative. Blog. Voice my opinion anywhere it will be heard. Organize and assemble in front of a public building. Call the newspapers.

Maybe you could make a list of methods of expression that you find in good taste, ostranenie, lest the citizens of San Francisco make the mistake of offending your sensibilities again in the future. Since we've already established that your personal opinion overrides the law of the land, we at least deserve it in writing, no?
posted by mek at 8:06 PM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


> You're choosing a faster commute over long-enshrined rights of communication which are now under attack, and the genuine safety of your fellow citizens, which has been repeatedly endangered by BART's behaviour which you are now cheerleading.

So support for BART's actions equals support for the violation of the rights of your fellow citizens' safety? That's quite a reach. "If you're not FOR $protest, you're AGAINST $arbitraryThing!" This isn't the government shutting down actual providers' cell towers--which, quite frankly, they'd do anyway whether it's legal or not, and whether you have something to say about it or not, and I think you know it, too. Getting het up about BART illegally flexing its muscles based on telephone company laws won't help you if the actual police state arrives.

But please, someone explain why mobile service while on the rails is important. I agree that it's illegal to shut it off. Tell your Congressman that, not me. Unelect the board of directors at BART and install mobile-friendly officials..or..do whatever. Just tell me what you're missing out on by not being able to make calls or get on the internet while on the train. No "butbutbut that's not what's important--our rights are at stake here!"--just tell me why you need it. While on BART. Please. Serious.
posted by ostranenie at 8:06 PM on August 26, 2011


> Maybe you could make a list of methods of expression that you find in good taste

Are you serious? I just did. IN WRITING. Call the press, blog on the internet, assemble in a public place without disrupting other citizens' rights--what part did you miss? What did you have in mind that I would have a problem with?

Again (and again, and again), I agree that BARTs actions were illegal based on current laws and so on and the fact that they are technically a telco based on etc., etc., etc., but I don't think it's so terrible based on what I know, because I DON'T think it will cause a repeated violation of someone's civil rights or set any scary precedents. It will turn popular opinion against the protestors, who already don't have a very big audience judging from the turnout as written up by the articles above. BART will turn their service back on, and everyone will stop hysterically shrieking about 1984 and Rosa Parks and so on and so forth.
posted by ostranenie at 8:12 PM on August 26, 2011


Also - the law of the land? Are you saying that protestors should be given license to violate the law of the land? Causing a public disturbance - that's a paddlin' illegal. Subjective, yes, but it's still illegal. Protest all you want, but don't shout down my rights because you think yours are more important.
posted by ostranenie at 8:14 PM on August 26, 2011


Just tell me what you're missing out on by not being able to make calls or get on the internet while on the train.

Calling for help when fuckwads like you threaten my safety?
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 8:24 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just tell me what you're missing out on by not being able to make calls or get on the internet while on the train.


Also, calling for paramedics in case of serious medical emergency.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 8:30 PM on August 26, 2011


Calling for help or paramedics, good one. You mean to tell me there's no way to do that without a mobile phone? And how am I threatening your safety, exactly?

And that's Mr. Fuckwad to you. Name-calling! Finally. Hey, way to show those true colors.
posted by ostranenie at 8:40 PM on August 26, 2011


> Solution: Shoot bullets.

Problem: I am severely angered that a public official used deadly force on someone


I haven't commented in this thread aside from pointing out that one silly point you just tried to make. Either back up the argument I replied to, concede the point, or ignore it. Don't try and change the subject because it doesn't suggest you are doing anything but tossing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:40 PM on August 26, 2011


Mobile phones are better than the other options when you are not trying to draw attention to yourself while calling for help. They have valid and unique uses, but yeah we don't need the fuckwad stuff.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:43 PM on August 26, 2011


And how am I threatening your safety, exactly?

I said when you threaten me. Not that you currently are. You seem pretty combative online. Maybe you act that way IRL too. As furiousxgeorge said, I'd want to notify 911 discretely rather than make a scene.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 8:45 PM on August 26, 2011


I don't condone the police's violent actions. I don't know what went on there and neither do you. I'm making points, not tossing stuff at a wall. BART shutting down its bridge isn't as important as everyone is making it out to be (while it is probably illegal based on their status as a telco). If I lived in the SFBA, I'd support BART in this because I don't think the protestors are taking the right course of action.

If someone is injured and needs medical attention, usually the last thing you want to do is be surreptitious about your help-calling.

And when "fuckwads like me" (excuse me?) threaten your safety, mobile phones won't help you. I'm not being combative at all. (I guess I'm prone to mugging someone because I have an opinion on the internet. I didn't realize. Thanks so much for pointing that out.) I'm not the one calling names--I'm just stating my opinion: mobile phones aren't as important as you think they are. BART shutting down its lines, temporarily, because of disruptive protests, is fine by me. If you want to protest, take it somewhere else, like where people aren't crammed together in a very small space for the sake of getting to where they need to go. Alternately: have a really, really good reason to protest that I can get on board with.

Side note: I wonder if 911 is still available on the BART? Obviously you won't be able to surf or talk or text, but can you still dial emergency numbers?
posted by ostranenie at 8:52 PM on August 26, 2011


> I said when you threaten me. Not that you currently are.

Sorry. How would I be threatening your safety?
posted by ostranenie at 8:53 PM on August 26, 2011


Relevant askme thread on the threatening of safety with some answers involving mobile phones.
posted by ostranenie at 9:00 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did someone say MetaTalk?
posted by ostranenie at 9:10 PM on August 26, 2011


These were not protests; people were trying to shut the BART train system Montgomery Bus system down.

FTFY, Threeway Handshake
posted by bbuda at 9:24 PM on August 26, 2011


I don't condone the police's violent actions. I don't know what went on there and neither do you. I'm making points, not tossing stuff at a wall.

I confused your reply for one from Vibrissae, but yes you are tossing shit at the wall if you decide to bounce my comment off to a different subject. Why the heck did you reply to it when you addressed nothing about it?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:25 PM on August 26, 2011


Problem: I am severely angered that a public official used deadly force on someone who may or may not have been armed.

...But for crying out loud, don't make people late for work


If only the dead homeless man had such problems.
posted by homunculus at 9:45 PM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


[Please (a) don't call each other fuckwads and (b) just kind of cool it a bit generally if possible. I know this is a touchy subject, but try and be civil to each other.]
posted by cortex at 9:57 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the point that is getting glossed over here is that BART almost certainly didn't realize what they were getting into when they set up their cellphone extenders. (As evidenced by the fact that they shut them off without much of a second thought, apparently.)

I doubt very much that most places with such devices have any idea of the liability they're creating for themselves by installing them (taking on premise that the people in this thread asserting that such a liability exists are correct). I'd bet that companies who set them up view them as convenience features, like WiFi hotspots or a few extra AC outlets for people to recharge laptops or something. However, if there really is a responsibility created to maintain a certain level of service and never shut the things down, ever, once you turn them on ... well, only an idiot would ever set one up.

It wouldn't surprise me, if BART ends up taking a hit for shutting their extenders down, that other organizations just shy away from touching the things. Much better to stay the hell away from telephone service, and stick to services that don't confer an obligation on you to maintain service, like WiFi (and on top of which you can layer a clickthru service agreement, if one holds water in your jurisdiction).

The ironic effect of all this might be greatly decreased cell coverage due to a reluctance on the part of third parties to set up cell-network extenders. In that case, I would predict a significant lobbying effort on the part of cellcos to exempt operators of network-extenders from liability in order to encourage their use, since it's a pretty nice boon to the cellular companies.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:12 PM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


threaten your safety, mobile phones won't help you

Not true, they could be wielded as a weapon or used to communicate with local officials or if necessary, barter. All three scenarios may be unlikely, but they will certainly help in this situation.

But please, someone explain why mobile service while on the rails is important


The first amendment... Protects the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the right to assemble and petition the government
And for arguments, sake the ninth, but that is “tricky“.

Just tell me what you're missing out on by not being able to make calls or get on the internet while on the train.

You ask twice, excluding The first amendments right as defined in simple terms: freedom of speech. However, your question…just tell me why you need has an answer and it lies in Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, while not codified per say, it is safe to assume if there were to be a disruption during Pon Far while talking with my wife, there could be serious repercussions. The Transit authority was pre mature in it’s communication disruption. Any planned violence may have been prevented with better intelligence and heightened patrols. Lawlessness is not such if it is prevented and there is no direct evidence that the disruption prevented violence. However, the safety of the passengers is of higher concern. It is therefore logical to plan for a better solution to future problems. Mr. Neelix has expressed his concern with harsh language, however, it is a human trait and Mr. Neelix has been known to play cruise director julie on more then one occassion.
posted by clavdivs at 11:00 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apples and oranges. And, please don't demean the heroism of Rosa Parks by comparing her bold and courageous action with the interruptions of the people who are trying to upset BART operations because they're pissed about a guy who chose to throw a knife at a BART police officer in a crowded BART station.
Yeah, being able to sit where you want on the bus is much more important then not being shot.
Citizens also have a long-enshrined right to public safety and free access to movement.
"Rights" are things that the government can't take away. Other citizens can't "take away your rights" That's just ridiculous. If the government was banning you from being able to ride on BART then that would be a violation of your rights. On the other hand, shutting down the entire thing wouldn't be.
posted by delmoi at 2:03 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The people opposed to BART shutting down phone service aren't "pro protester" or even simply "pro convenience." We're disturbed because we see BARTs action as setting a dangerous legal president and the start of a slippery slope.

Freedom of speech doesn't just mean freedom of speech for people I like and agree with.


Slippery slope:

It's OK if the government shuts down metafilter to disrupt a protest I oppose, because metafilter is just a convenience. People can always use facebook.

It's OK if the government shuts down facebook to disrupt a protest I oppose, because facebook is just a convenience. People can always use twitter.

It's OK if the government shuts down twitter to disrupt a protest I oppose, because twitter is just a convenience. People can always use email.

It's OK if the government shuts down email to disrupt a protest I oppose, because email is just a convenience. People can always use text messaging.

It's OK if the government shuts down text messaging to disrupt a protest I oppose, because text messaging is just a convenience. People can always use their cell phones.

It's OK if the government shuts down cell phone service to disrupt a protest I oppose, because cell phones are a convenience. People can always use land lines.

It's OK if the government shuts down land lines to disrupt protesters I oppose, because land lines are a convenience. People can always go to Western Union and send a telegram.

It's OK if the government shuts down the telegram service to disrupt protesters I oppose, because telegram service is a convenience. People can always use the Pony Express.

It's OK if the government prevents me from freely communicating to disrupt protesters I oppose, because freely communicating is just a convenience.

It's OK if the government shuts down the airport to disrupt protesters I oppose, because flying is a convenience. People can always take the train.

It's OK if the government shuts down the train service to disrupt protesters I oppose, because train service is a convenience. People can always take a car.

It's OK if the government shuts down the bridges to disrupt protesters I oppose, because bridges are a convenience. People can always take a boat.

It's OK if the government sinks boats to disrupt protesters I oppose, because boats are a convenience. People can always swim.

It's OK if the government prevents me from moving about freely and demands papers everywhere I go to disrupt protesters I oppose, because freedom of movement is just a convenience.



People in support of BART shutting down cell service seem to believe that government officials at federal, state and municipal levels nationwide will always make the 'right' decision about disrupting "convenient" modes of communication to protect us from the scary boogyman. So we needn't worry about what BART did or what any other government entity might due in the future based on what happens in the BART case. Besides, these protesters are unpopular, and unpopular protesters don't deserve the same rights as REAL Americans. Also, never mind if this action actually had any measurable impact on the protesters and was just some security theater to make people feel safer.

TLDR; One persons "convenience" is another persons life line and means to petition the government for redress of grievances. We should be outraged and BART should be penalized for their poorly thought out actions.

---
And, Yes, I do believe Congress should enact laws to protect internet service from interruption and interference as a common carrier just as was done for the telegram and the telephone before it.
posted by j03 at 3:17 AM on August 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think the point that is getting glossed over here is that BART almost certainly didn't realize what they were getting into when they set up their cellphone extenders. (As evidenced by the fact that they shut them off without much of a second thought, apparently.)

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
posted by ryoshu at 7:19 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that anyone here who doesn't believe that ATT or Verizon wouldn't shut down cell phone service (at the request of the govt) in the even of a major civil disturbance / protest is completely fooling themselves. Both those orgs (at least) are already providing complete access to all your calls without court order to the CIA NSA and FBI under the patriot act.

What happened with BART isn't an outrage at all. It should be a wake up call to let you know what;s really going on with the rights you gave away during the Bush administration and continuing with Obama.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:13 AM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have given nothing away nor have lost one freedom. Your your penchant for hyperbole is Illogical and has little or no basis in reality. For example, you say Bush when Obama is president. If Bush "took away" these rights, why did not Obama restore them.

to state a premise the suggest someone is foolish is the epitome of troll and insencerity. I will pray for you. Mr Neelix has some nice soup, please try it.

(this is a game to you isn't it, go ahead, start a metalk thread...I would love it)
posted by clavdivs at 9:25 AM on August 27, 2011


Why we need cell phones on BART: to immediately (before it can be confiscated) upload video of a BART officer performing an illegal act, such as SHOOTING SOMEONE, so he can be held accountable.

As an aside, "wiretapping," my ass.
posted by nzero at 10:22 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the ethical rather than legal argument: I also missed a number of details of the story, being on the opposite coast and in a different country, but I don't recall hearing that the anticipated protest that BART did the shutting-down of cell phone service in stations for actually cause huge inconvenience to other passengers? I seem to recall reading that it turned out to be not much, or not nearly as big as anticipated (though that doesn't mean that it was nothing or didn't cause any disturbance).

Also, Vibrissae, in some of your posts you seem to be arguing that a disruption to other BART passengers is merely inconvenient to them (but that that is bad enough to warrant the removal of cell phone service). In other posts, you seem to be arguing that it was/would be actually dangerous to other passengers. Could you clarify?

I'm having a hard time buying that second argument, or seeing where disrupting cell phone service would be the appropriate response to a dangerous crowd situation (instead of, say, only creating more distress and confusion).

In the case of the first argument, you seem to be weighing competing inconveniences with potential constitutional-rights overtones in the balance and concluding that (a group of citizens) restricting travel is worse than (a government body) restricting communication? But I think the distinction between a government body causing the restriction (in the communication case) versus a group of citizens (engaged in peaceful protest against an actual injustice by said government body or otherwise; in the travel case) is crucial here. Yes, creating a disturbance and disrupting other people's travel is a minor illegal act (just as BART turning off the cell service turned out to be), but having a government body in which we've invested a whole lot more power and authority than a random ad-hoc group of citizens doing, at best, the same thing in return (just substituting in communication for travel) is not the best, nor an appropriate, response. I agree with the arguments that have been made above that this is a wider issue (slippery slope or whatever you want to call it). Could you address this argument please?
posted by eviemath at 12:39 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


why did not Obama restore them

Because he agrees that you should be subject to warrantless wiretap at the whims of the government, probably. As for BART, Poet Lariat makes a good point, this is an action that is the logical end result of what we have lost, civil liberties-wise, in the U.S. since 9/11. It may not be a freedom to you but protection from unreasonable searches (such as warrantless wiretapping) meant an awful lot to the revolutionaries who fought for it, even if it hadn't personally affected them. BART's actions were illegal, irresponsible and frankly, unamerican (in the realest sense of the word). They should face consequences but I am guessing they won't. The fact that so many are so quick to defend these actions is why this stuff really scares me. When the shit hits the fan, I'm bouncin'.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:46 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Warning: the above comment is a convuluted, multi-topic, ramble
posted by IvoShandor at 12:47 PM on August 27, 2011


Also, Vibrissae, in some of your posts you seem to be arguing that a disruption to other BART passengers is merely inconvenient to them (but that that is bad enough to warrant the removal of cell phone service). In other posts, you seem to be arguing that it was/would be actually dangerous to other passengers. Could you clarify?

I'm having a hard time buying that second argument, or seeing where disrupting cell phone service would be the appropriate response to a dangerous crowd situation (instead of, say, only creating more distress and confusion).

In the case of the first argument, you seem to be weighing competing inconveniences with potential constitutional-rights overtones in the balance and concluding that (a group of citizens) restricting travel is worse than (a government body) restricting communication? But I think the distinction between a government body causing the restriction (in the communication case) versus a group of citizens (engaged in peaceful protest against an actual injustice by said government body or otherwise; in the travel case) is crucial here. Yes, creating a disturbance and disrupting other people's travel is a minor illegal act (just as BART turning off the cell
service turned out to be), but having a government body in which we've invested a whole lot more power and authority than a random ad-hoc group of citizens doing, at best, the same thing in return (just substituting in communication for travel) is not the best, nor an appropriate, response. I agree with the arguments that have been made above that this is a wider issue (slippery slope or whatever you want to call it). Could you address this argument please?


There are lots of slippery slopes. There are lots of ways to lose rights. Governments, whose primary job is to guarantee public safety, can overstep its boundaries (like, with the Patriot Act), in ways that harm core Democratic values.

On the other hand, if governments are too lax, or too liberal in their interpretations of measuring safety within the context of scenarios like the one we're discussing, they (governments) can actually reinforce the idea that it's OK for one group of citizens to limit the freedoms of other citizens. That's a slippery slope, too.

I'm not trying to be coy by the following: government IS the people; it represents the people; it is comprised of people who have a delicate and special responsibility to guarantee safety, and balance that with other core provisions of our Democracy, like the freedom to speak out in protest.

About authority, and power. An ad-hoc group of citizens can cause quite a bit of mayhem, as we've seen recently in the UK. It's no accident the flash mob meme have kind of "caught on" with those who want to produce mayhem and chaos, instead of fun (btw, I hate the fact that the term "flash mobs", which used to stand for social-group-organized fun, has been co-opted by the press to mean something far more sinister, and dangerous...so what do we call spontaneous gathers for fun, organized via social media? The press should call these gatherings "disruption mobs" - one can disrupt for good or ill - leave the term "flash mobs" alone!)

Back to principles: I'm not arguing that the interruption of access to BART is "merely inconvenient"; I'm arguing that for some it's VERY inconvenient. It could case someone to lose a job, or miss picking up a kid, or miss getting a medication to an elderly relative who requires absolute on-time dosing. This is not "merely inconvenient".

As for preventing the disruption of service, the BART administrators made a call; they are aware of and have knowledge of how protests can get out of hand. They did arrest someone with incendiary devices, did they not? Can you imagine something like that triggered in a BART station, with old and young who can't get away from the ensuing stampede?

A BART official who is doing her job is going to weigh all of these things to make a decision - a decision that I trust is made in the interest of the safety of ALL, rather than the political convenience of a few.

A related note: The man who was shot dead on the platform was probably suffering from mental illness; he threw a 4" knife at a police officer. Frankly, I wish BART police were trained well enough to use Tasing devices in situations like that. That said, I was not in the shoes of that officer, so I'll refrain from commenting on whether what he did was right or wrong.

That we have mentally ill and homeless people without hope in America troubles me to no end. Nobody deserves to be left out of the ecology of care that every civilized society should be bound to provide. I take no pleasure in the fact that that homeless man was killed.

That said, I do not agree that the incident, which had nothing to to with the 10's of thousands who use BART everyday, should lead to great inconvenience just because a group of people decide that THEY know all the details of the shooting, and that THEY are in the right about what SHOULD have happened to that homeless man. Why should the protestor's rights trump the system of due process? And, what does inconveniencing 1000's of BART customers have to do with changing anything in a direction that the protestors agree with.

As to turning off cell service: bottom line, a judgement call. No judgment call is guaranteed to please everyone. We all judge differently. All decisions take a final pathway through the brain that is emotional. That's human; that's us.

In a democratic society, we absolutely want to give voice to a minority, but we draw the line at public safety. Given what I and a few others have already expressed, public safety, rather than administrative control, was the issue here.

That said, something needs to be done to improve response variables in BART's police force, keeping in mind that BART officers have a VERY stressful job. They, too, are human beings; they, too, make mistakes - sometimes tragic mistakes. I think we do ourselves a disservice to assume the worst motives when tragedy happens. But again, I have to go back to emotional pathways in the brain; we are not a rational species. There's the rub.

Hope this hasn't wandered too much...
posted by Vibrissae at 2:40 PM on August 27, 2011


Back to principles: I'm not arguing that the interruption of access to BART is "merely inconvenient"; I'm arguing that for some it's VERY inconvenient. It could case someone to lose a job, or miss picking up a kid, or miss getting a medication to an elderly relative who requires absolute on-time dosing. This is not "merely inconvenient".

But just to be clear, no actual interruption of access occurred on the day BART decided to break the law and turn off cellphone service. They deemed the mere possibility of a disruptive protest sufficient to justify their actions, and you agree. You are advocating that government organizations can and should break the law to enforce order in the event that individuals may be planning to engage in potentially (but not necessarily or intentionally) disruptive, legally protected speech. Just so we're clear.
posted by mek at 2:55 PM on August 27, 2011


But just to be clear, no actual interruption of access occurred on the day BART decided to break the law and turn off cellphone service. They deemed the mere possibility of a disruptive protest sufficient to justify their actions, and you agree. You are advocating that government organizations can and should break the law to enforce order in the event that individuals may be planning to engage in potentially (but not necessarily or intentionally) disruptive,

Right. BART made a judgement call. Further I do advocate that government officials who carefully assess that a threat of real mayhem may injure innocents, have the right to override laws that are secondary to the primary responsibility of government - i.e. to guarantee public safety.

So my question to you: If you, as BART official, thought that the availability of certain communications capabilities was about to be used to thwart BART service; inconvenience 10's of thousands of people; and pose a better than-even chance (subjective chance) of someone getting hurt, or worse, would you permit the protestors to use that communication capacity to continue their protest. Further, if an innocent was hurt, maimed, or worse as a result of your decision NOT to disable communications devices, would you be willing to be held responsible - criminally responsible - for your action?

Just so we're clear.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:10 PM on August 27, 2011


Of course you don't hold government officials criminally responsible for that kind of judgement call leading to a freak accident, if we did they would be just as liable for a death or injury that is the result of the inability to call for help because of the lost phone service.

You do, however, hold them liable for...ya know...breaking the law.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:24 PM on August 27, 2011


Why should the protestor's rights trump the system of due process?

Why didn't BART follow due process when deciding to shut of communications? Is it incumbent upon every citizen to acknowledge due process when protesting, or is that a function of government in regards to the rights of citizens?
posted by krinklyfig at 3:45 PM on August 27, 2011


So my question to you: If you, as BART official, thought that the availability of certain communications capabilities was about to be used to thwart BART service

There is a way they could have done this legally. They chose to ignore or subvert the legal option. That is the reason why this action by BART is problematic.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:47 PM on August 27, 2011


Further, if an innocent was hurt, maimed, or worse as a result of your decision NOT to disable communications devices, would you be willing to be held responsible - criminally responsible - for your action?
Last I checked, it's not a crime to obey the law.
posted by delmoi at 3:53 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Furthermore the idea that BART officials could be held liable for the actions of protesters because they didn't stop them is totally absurd. Has there ever been an example of police or government officials being put in jail because they failed to prevent a crime (and not one they were a party to))
posted by delmoi at 3:55 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's never acceptable for the government to break its own laws. (This is so obvious it seems tautological.) The judicial exists to check the power of the executive and legislative - easy to forget in post-9/11 America, but it's true. That our executive is now so easily escaping judicial oversight is one of the most horrifying aspects of the 21st century. In this case, the law is very clear, and it was broken, and the BART official responsible should probably be fired. You can argue all day that they did the morally responsible thing because their actions saved lives in a hypothetical transit-terrorism scenario, but what really happened is that a fearful government official acted irresponsibly and ignorantly, and caused BART to break federal law.

[Here's an analogy that I consider legally and morally equivalent: a police officer suspects a rival gang is about to bust a dial-a-doper's stash in an apartment building, and to prevent a perceived-as-inevitable outbreak of violence, he directs AT&T to shut down cell service in the city block. The dealer can no longer operate, so he packs up and leaves, and the cops peacefully pull him over and arrest him. Criminal jailed, violence prevented, hooray - but the police still breached their authority as determined by case law. When the case finally gets before a judge, it's dismissed, the cop is demoted, and AT&T is fined $10 millon.]

Was it morally right? This is where we must agree to disagree. In some cases, citizens can break the law morally - see civil disobedience. But government officials have a special obligation to not break the law, because they are an extension of it: if an official attempts to engage in "civil disobedience" it becomes malfeasance. These dramatic hypotheticals are posited to people in authority all the time, and we must trust them to act responsibly. When they do not, we end up with Jack Bauer "ticking-time bomb" fantasies justifying torture regimes, or multi-billion dollar security apparatuses to protect us from pie-throwers. You may see that as a stretch, but I place them on the same continuum of failures of civic duty. Most importantly, it is absolutely a slippery slope, where the justifications trotted out for these minor infractions later lead to major ones.
posted by mek at 4:01 PM on August 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


A disruption is not a loss of rights, this if evident in the time frame as it is not enforce today. The fact that it is being discussed is one aspect to a free society engaging in societal problems. Crewman lariat has provided a slippery slope argument. For example, many for the laws already existed before the Bush presidency. However, more laws were expanded and created after the WTC attacks, such increased laws can increase socities contention of such restrictions and possible wide scale abuse, this anxiety is evident. It is therefore logical to work towards a solution to the problem without endangering social liberties. for example , Mr. Paris and his wily free- sprited ways. While tolerated, if they become disruptive and violent, they cease to be shenanigans.
posted by clavdivs at 4:22 PM on August 27, 2011


Logic? My God, the man's talking about logic; we're talking about universal rights! You green-blooded, inhuman...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:54 PM on August 27, 2011


The purpose of logic is to derive consistent propositions from axioms. You can't say anything is "logical" without defining the basic premises. To say "It is therefore logical to work towards a solution to the problem without endangering social liberties. for example" begs the question of whether or not we care about 'social liberties'
posted by delmoi at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2011


(Oh, and the point I was going to make is that 'universal rights' make useful axioms)
posted by delmoi at 7:16 PM on August 27, 2011


A disruption is not a loss of rights, this if evident in the time frame as it is not enforce today

This is about the FCC and jurisdiction. Anyway, abridgement of rights on a temporary basis done without regard to due process is still a loss of rights.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:31 PM on August 27, 2011


The purpose of logic is to derive consistent propositions from axioms. You can't say anything is "logical" without defining the basic premises. To say "It is therefore logical to work towards a solution to the problem without endangering social liberties. for example" begs the question of whether or not we care about 'social liberties'

As your retort begs the question about logic - a member of the family of formal systems - which have been shown unable to solve all problems posed within consistently defined rules. (Icompleteness Theorem).

What this boils down to is a disagreement about whether BART did the right thing, or not. We're not going to come to any definitive conclusion about that, here.

BART is an agency comprised of humans; it does not act like a machine. The actors are human; they deploy subjective judgment. I support their decision, and hope they deploy it again should protestors try to interrupt BART service.

"Social Liberties" are always in flux - between too many, and not enough. The Supreme Court has shown us that. If you have a problem with what BART did, write/call your elected representatives; picket BART offices; stage licensed demonstrations that properly notice your fellow citizens. Or, if that doesn't get the attention one craves, one can act like the attention whores who tried to shut down BART and didn't get the attention they wanted; that's why they and their supporters are calling foul. Democracy is a lot more difficult and messy than throwing together a flash crowd.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:12 PM on August 27, 2011


BART is an agency comprised of humans; it does not act like a machine. The actors are human; they deploy subjective judgment.

They are still bound by the rule of law. We can't condemn the protesters at their lawlessness and simultaneously applaud the government for ignoring the law. Just as the protesters can be brought to justice for their breach of the law, so should BART be responsible for their illegal actions. Just because some commuters applaud BART's actions because of the inconvenience the protesters might cause them, does not absolve them from legal responsibility.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:34 PM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


stage licensed demonstrations that properly notice your fellow citizens

Something about that phrase seems so contradictory to the whole idea of protest.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:35 PM on August 27, 2011


To clarify (but not to compare the two actions), what if the protesters at the Woolworth lunch counter asked for prior permission to do their sit-in? What would have been the official response by the Greensboro, NC, authorities? Should they have given up the idea if the authorities and citizenry objected to the idea before they staged the sit-in?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:48 PM on August 27, 2011


You do not ask permission to break the law. you break the law in order to included in the laws, so yeah, bad example.

The problem is who to punish. I think this would require people to file a complaint, being San Francisco, no doubt already done.
posted by clavdivs at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2011


WHAT DO YOU MEAN MEAN SAN FRANCISC0...
save you the trouble as this issue no longer concerns me. good luck "brave" folks with your BART.
posted by clavdivs at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2011


Vibrissae: You support the "judgement call" BART made that happened to be illegal, dangerous and probably had little to no impact on the ability of the protesters to organize.

You support their judgement call because you believe it was justified based on the information they had. That's all well and fine, but no one has elected you the judge of all "judgement calls" nation wide. This is what we have laws for. This is why we have The Constitution.

The point of this article is that BART broke the law and their actions if unpunished set president for other groups to make their own "judgement calls" good or bad with complete disregard to the law.

A law that is not enforced is no law at all.

On preview, what krinklyfig said.
posted by j03 at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2011


Let's separate this all out. First. The issue of the protest basis is unimportant. If you throw a knife at a police officer, you are using deadly force. You can be subject to deadly force. I also think these protesters are childish and likely breaking the law for attempting to disrupt train service, especially to apparently support a person who put lives at risk by using deadly force against a police officer.

Having said that, BART's remedy is to arrest those disrupting service and criminally try them. If the analysis provided in the above article is true, then they have no legal right to turn off the cell service and should face sanction.

Finally, they key action to be taken now is to influence BART's board to set a new policy that does not allow them the ability to do this.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:45 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


As your retort begs the question about logic - a member of the family of formal systems - which have been shown unable to solve all problems posed within consistently defined rules. (Icompleteness Theorem).
First of all "about logic" is not a question, so it can't be begged. Second of all the incompleteness theorem has nothing to do with what we're discussing here, and on top of that you're actually wrong about what it says. The incompleteness theorem states that formal systems that are complete enough to evaluate all mathematical formulas are also capable of creating statements that can't be evaluated. It does not say that all formal systems can't evaluate all statements expressible in those systems.

So in terms of determining whether or not something is moral or immoral given a set of "universal morals" is doable so long as your statements don't need to include complex mathematical ideas like unbound recursion and stuff like that.

Anyone who thinks the incompleteness means "ha ha logic doesn't work" or something like that doesn't know what they're talking about.

Secondly, the point was that there is no conflict between moral or ethical rules or civil liberties or anything like that and "logic" They go well together.
posted by delmoi at 2:24 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


if an official attempts to engage in "civil disobedience" it becomes malfeasance. These dramatic hypotheticals are posited to people in authority all the time, and we must trust them to act responsibly. When they do not, we end up with Jack Bauer "ticking-time bomb" fantasies justifying torture regimes, or multi-billion dollar security apparatuses to protect us from pie-throwers. You may see that as a stretch, but I place them on the same continuum of failures of civic duty. Most importantly, it is absolutely a slippery slope, where the justifications trotted out for these minor infractions later lead to major ones.

That's your assumption, and you have a right to it. Frankly, I think it's as bonkers to say that BART's actions lead to torture as it is to say that the protestor's actions lead to pure anarchy.

Two words: Daniel Ellsburg - a government official who broke the law. What did that lead to?

You are making arguments that project your assumption to extreme cases. I can do the same. We plainly disagree.

As stated in prior posts, there are two slippery slopes; one that leads us to facism and one that leads to anarchy. I detest both extremes.

That said, I support BART's counterweight to the protests, and hope they deploy the same action again, including measured police presence as a deterrent, if the protests continue. Remember, one protestor was discovered holding incendiary devices at one of these protests.

Finally, I hope this is taken to court, so that we can gain more perspectives, and perhaps find ways to enable BART officials to guarantee public safety without the interference of attention whores.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:09 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The drama continues. Frankly, I think BART needs to man up and stop the protestors from making this a habit. We're talking about 50-100 people (mostly far less than that) creating havoc for 10's of thousands of commuters, just because they claim a "right".

One person's opinion

Reporting. Watch the video, including what happened at last month's protest; given what that video shows, BART's action to shut down the possibility of a repeat was absolutely appropriate. There is good commentary on the large grey area involved, with another pointer to a court-based solution. As stated in the video, the Framers could not have anticipated social networks that permit both effective protest (Egypt) and mayhem (UK, and last BART protest).
posted by Vibrissae at 4:28 PM on August 28, 2011


Two words: Daniel Ellsburg - a government official who broke the law. What did that lead to?

He was a private contractor working for RAND corp.
posted by delmoi at 5:01 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


MD Who Treated Man Shot and Killed by BART Police Will Join Monday’s Protest
posted by homunculus at 5:19 PM on August 28, 2011


Two words: Daniel Ellsburg - a government official who broke the law. What did that lead to?

Whistleblowers do lose their jobs, inevitably, for obvious reasons - so I guess we agree here. Whistleblowing can be defined as publicly objecting to the job they are paid to do, for moral reasons. That's not applicable here.
posted by mek at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Per the police, he was armed with a bottle and a knife and had menacing behavior. Per eye witnesses, he was altered and appeared to be intoxicated but did not represent a lethal danger.

I'm not defending or protesting what the BART police did. What boggles is all these people who weren't there who are so convinced that the action was wrong, and who are taking their assumptions to the street and causing mayhem for 10's of thousands of commuters. Boy, if there's anything that will hurt their cause, continuing to interrupt BART service will. Fail!

Bay Area commuters - by-and-large - don't have a problem with BART security - go ask around. What they do have a problem with are aggressive thugs who rip off purses, who leer at them with threatening stares, who fight among themselves with dangerous weapons in ways that spills over to innocent bystanders.

"I would like to lend my voice to the growing protest of the BART police’s excessive use of violent force and know that weekly protests are being organized on Mondays until demands are met for BART to fully investigate the shooting of Charles Hill, disarm its police force and train them properly, as well as bringing the officer who shot him to justice. The media is portraying the annoyance of the protests to commuters more than the unbelievable horror that an innocent man was shot dead by the force that is meant to protect us."

Some BART officers may use excessive force; if it's shown to be excessive they should be disciplined. That said, the physician who is quoted in the above two examples shows ignorance of street reality.

With 250Million+ guns in America it would be folly for American police forces to disarm themselves in ANY environment. Why isn't that physician lobbying against the NRA? Where is she when thugs beat up innocents on BART - why isn't she protesting that? Her statements are filled with ignorant contradictions, like her assumption that Charles Hill did not present a danger. Maybe he did; maybe he didn't. Was she there on the platform. She ignorantly compares triage in an emergency room with the open violence of uncontrolled street action. Just dumb. Is she a cop? What does she know of policing. Are cops telling her how to do her job? Is she protesting for more and better mental health care?

Let the investigation about that police action decide whether or not the police officer should be disciplined, and save the outrage for actions that have a real impact, instead of pissing off 10's of thousands of people about something that the protestors were not even there to see, or experience - and further alienating the public from supporting change that will better protect those who are unable to protect themselves - including the homeless, mentally ill, and the good Bat Area citizens who just want to get from point A to point B without being threatened with violence.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:28 PM on August 28, 2011


BART's action to shut down the possibility of a repeat was absolutely appropriate. There is good commentary on the large grey area involved, with another pointer to a court-based solution. As stated in the video, the Framers could not have anticipated social networks that permit both effective protest (Egypt) and mayhem (UK, and last BART protest).

You can't have it both ways. If the protestors are to be held to the law, then BART must also hold to the law, which appears to say such actions are illegal.

You cannot uphold the law by breaking it. BART has to simply arrest the protesters if they make an illegal, non-permitted protest. Its quite simple.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:49 PM on August 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


You cannot uphold the law by breaking it.

But you can uphold and better guarantee the safety of another by breaking the law. I suggest we let the courts and/or the BART ombudsman decide.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:52 PM on August 28, 2011


1. You keep repeating "remember: a man was arrested with incendiary devices" as though it had something to do with the phone network. Your whole argument seems to hinge on "The protesters were a dangerous to society therefore it was OK for BART to break the law to protect civilians." Except that's not quite accurate:

One of those arrested was booked on suspicion of possessing an incendiary device.

Wow, that's somewhat different from what you've been saying. One of 30 people may have had some item that was almost but not quite entirely unlike an incendiary device.

What was it? Did he have a Bic lighter and a pocket full of firecrackers? A bottle of everclear and a bandana? Two rubbing sticks and some tinder?

Was a phone attached to this "device?" (No)

How did the illegal shut down of the phone network on the BART result in this suspects arrest? (It didn't)

Given the facts above, in what way did breaking this law "better guarantee the safety of another?"


2. Your logic is running backwards.

Even if you had incontrovertible proof that shutting down the cell towers would have saved lives in hindsight, there was no indication of a bomb threat or extreme threat of violence like that ahead of the protest.

I watched your video. I saw a guy climb on top of a train car and a dude with a megaphone. They shut down phone service because of this?

So really you're suggesting that every vague whiff of a threat to safety should be swiftly followed by a suspension of phone service in the area. "To protect the public!"

"Million man march? Someone might be carrying a weapon! Better shut down the phones! You know, for safety!"

"Hippies chaining themselves to trees? They might hurt themselves! Quick, shut down their phones!"

"Cyclists flooding the streets interrupting auto traffic? Obviously unsafe! Surely an illegal shutdown of the phone system without approval from either the Public Utility Commission or the FCC is the safest most reasonable course of action."

This is a blatant attempt to suppress freedom of speech and the right of assembly. Never mind FCC regulations. This is a clear first amendment violation.


3. Which brings us to another issue you seem to have little to say about: the greater impact to a nation wide precedent this would set.

"After all, BART did it without penalty, why can't we?" - low level municipal administrator


4. I suggest we let the courts and/or the BART ombudsman decide.

I agree and I'm glad to see you're coming around to our side of the fence. :)
posted by j03 at 3:36 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


But you can uphold and better guarantee the safety of another by breaking the law.

This is not supposed to be how the United States works.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:06 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why isn't that physician lobbying against the NRA? Where is she when thugs beat up innocents on BART - why isn't she protesting that? Her statements are filled with ignorant contradictions, like her assumption that Charles Hill did not present a danger.

I have no idea what other issues she's involved with, but in this case, like she said, she's protesting over Charles Hill's death because she knew him and had treated him personally, so it's hardly surprising that she's upset over his shooting. She says she doesn't wish to inconvenience commuters, and the webpage her letter is posted on urges protesters to stay above ground and not to protest on BART platforms, but it's natural that she's less concerned with their potential annoyance than she is with the perceived injustice of the killing of this man she knew. You may not agree with her interpretation of events or course of action, fine, but if you can't empathize with her motivations at all then I think it's your perspective which is out of whack here.
posted by homunculus at 10:13 AM on August 29, 2011


What was it? Did he have a Bic lighter and a pocket full of firecrackers? A bottle of everclear and a bandana? Two rubbing sticks and some tinder?

Or a pork pie?
posted by homunculus at 10:17 AM on August 29, 2011


You cannot uphold the law by breaking it.

But you can uphold and better guarantee the safety of another by breaking the law.


I see you've come to hype your new book. Mr. Vice President.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:35 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bay Area commuters - by-and-large - don't have a problem with BART security - go ask around.

Funny, I have asked around, and the results from my sample are that Bay Area commuters DO have a problem with BART security and think the BART police are far too trigger-happy.

Unless you've paid a professional polling firm and are citing the results they got, claiming "I've talked to people and they think [x]" is utterly useless.
posted by Lexica at 12:14 PM on August 29, 2011


Masked Protesters Aid Time Warner’s Bottom Line: Time Warner owns the rights to a Guy Fawkes mask and is paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask worn by members of the hacker group Anonymous.
posted by homunculus at 1:17 PM on August 29, 2011


Funny, I have asked around, and the results from my sample are that Bay Area commuters DO have a problem with BART security and think the BART police are far too trigger-happy.


How would they know? Are they witnessing these events? Because if they are not there, they do not know.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:11 PM on August 29, 2011


How would they know? Are they witnessing these events? Because if they are not there, they do not know.

Thank you, that's exactly the same point that should be made about the "Bay Area commuters" who "by-and-large - don't have a problem with BART security" that Vibrissae suggested people "go ask around" to find. If they weren't there and didn't witness the events, they don't know either.

You seem to have missed the point I was making, which was not "Bay Area commuters [do/don't] think BART did the right thing", it was "it is impossible to tell WHAT Bay Area commuters do or don't think because everybody in the discussion is making assertions based on 'well, I've talked to my friends and they think [blah]' instead of on actual data".
posted by Lexica at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2011


Two words: Daniel Ellsburg - a government official who broke the law. What did that lead to?

The power is always greatest on the side of government, which is why the government has constraints on its power and is supposed to uphold the rights of citizens when exercising its authority. Ellsberg wasn't trying to subvert the rights of citizens in the name of public safety. Even if there is a reason to temporarily abridge the rights of citizens, which some argue is the case here, there is a well-defined process which the government is supposed to follow. BART failed to do so.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:21 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you, that's exactly the same point that should be made about the "Bay Area commuters" who "by-and-large - don't have a problem with BART security" that Vibrissae suggested people "go ask around" to find. If they weren't there and didn't witness the events, they don't know either.

I agree. I am less than happy with the idea that people are protesting individual shooting incidents, as these will be investigated. However, I am even less happy about the idea that BART is shutting off cell service in violation of federal law. The idea that this is OK is terrible.

Second, the idea that Bay Area residents are supposed to wait around for the decision is wrong. If you read the article, BART's board is looking into regulations about this. No waiting around is needed. People should contact their BART board members (see my comment above) and influence the policy making.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:36 PM on August 29, 2011


I am less than happy with the idea that people are protesting individual shooting incidents, as these will be investigated.

This is the type of incident which, if repeated again and again, provokes riots in poor neighborhoods. People who feel disenfranchised to begin with aren't typically satiated with the idea that a pattern of violence against their own by authorities is being investigated ... by the same authorities. Although the protesters are probably not endearing most other people to their cause by their methods (and I do know why, as I've lived in the area), it sure does work at getting attention. The least you can say is it's better than rioting.

I agree with you in general, Ironmouth, but telling people not to protest yet another a shooting by the police because internal investigations are underway doesn't usually work. Protesting is a way for people to get the government to listen to their concerns, which often seems like a lost cause, particularly if you're poor and live in Oakland or Richmond, CA. It's a way to say that the system is broken, and telling people to uphold the system and keep the faith that its internal investigations will produce change or even a good answer is not all that effective; the system and its process which failed them previously brought them to this point.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:28 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looks like the whole thing is dying down, and going away. The cameras and press - fickle as they are - have found a new group of attention whores to suck in 10 o'clock news viewers with.

This is the type of incident which, if repeated again and again, provokes riots in poor neighborhoods. People who feel disenfranchised to begin with aren't typically satiated with the idea that a pattern of violence against their own by authorities is being investigated ... by the same authorities. Although the protesters are probably not endearing most other people to their cause by their methods (and I do know why, as I've lived in the area), it sure does work at getting attention. The least you can say is it's better than rioting

But it's a whole lot less effective than working for organized change at the legislative and local level. These people have alienated almost everyone from there cause, except for a few, most of whom appear to be hanging out on the blue.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:27 PM on August 29, 2011


These people have alienated almost everyone from there cause, except for a few,

Polls or GTFO
posted by delmoi at 11:43 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


After you, Delmoi. Read the forum comments; it's an unofficial poll of sorts - or are you waiting for a Pew survey? While you're at it, go check other Bay Area newspaper forums, and see how people and commuters in the Bay area are feel about these attention whores (using the word "protestors" demeans the word). And, I haven't met one person on BART who agrees with these loons. Perhaps now you a clue about what people think of the protestors.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:34 AM on August 30, 2011


I have only skimmed the comments here (it's a loooong thread), and while I think what BART did was ridiculous, and I don't have a particular opinion one way or the other about the legality of it (I'm no expert, nor do I pretend to be), my first temptation if I were in charge of BART after this situation would be "Ya know what? That cell service we're providing to people on the trains? Turns out it's not all that cost effective for us to provide it. So we're going to discontinue the service. Sorry!" - but then, that could just be my intolerance for "protesters" like this who feel that inconveniencing people WHO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT THEY'RE PROTESTING is a clever way to get their message heard.

TL;DR: Yes, BART shouldn't have turned off the cell service within those few stations. But man, fuck those "protesters", right in the ear.
posted by antifuse at 6:20 AM on August 30, 2011


I have only skimmed the comments here (it's a loooong thread), and while I think what BART did was ridiculous, and I don't have a particular opinion one way or the other about the legality of it (I'm no expert, nor do I pretend to be), my first temptation if I were in charge of BART after this situation would be "Ya know what? That cell service we're providing to people on the trains? Turns out it's not all that cost effective for us to provide it. So we're going to discontinue the service.

BART isn't providing shit. They derive their power from the people, not the other way around. It's not like BART sold lemonade to fund the cell service.


Sorry!" - but then, that could just be my intolerance for "protesters" like this who feel that inconveniencing people WHO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT THEY'RE PROTESTING is a clever way to get their message heard.

No one has a constitutional right against being inconvenienced.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:02 AM on August 30, 2011


No one has a constitutional right against being inconvenienced.

Man, that's surely a way to get the people on your side, isn't it?
posted by Vibrissae at 10:15 AM on August 30, 2011


BART isn't providing shit. They derive their power from the people, not the other way around. It's not like BART sold lemonade to fund the cell service.

That's right - BART provided a service, and the profits from which were presumably used to add more services to BART stations, like cell phone repeaters. I haven't read anywhere that BART was mandated to do so by a voter referendum though, so yes, they ARE providing a service to their customers as a convenience (presumably to increase ridership, as one wouldn't assume that ANY business would do something that costs money, out of the goodness of their hearts). I don't think they are required by law to provide cell phone repeaters in their stations (though, obviously, taking them away

No one has a constitutional right against being inconvenienced.

This is very true. But neither does anyone have a constitutional right to be praised for being an asshole. If all I want to do is get to work, and somebody feels the need to make that harder to further awareness of their "cause", possibly getting my ass fired? Yeah, sorry, but that's probably going to backfire.
posted by antifuse at 11:00 AM on August 30, 2011


I haven't read anywhere that BART was mandated to do so by a voter referendum though

They are a governmental body providing common carrier service. There are laws about this sort of thing. You can't cut off communications to all in an effort to prevent a perceived threat to public safety without going through well defined procedures. Not sure why BART would be ignorant of this fact, or why they chose to ignore it.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:56 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't cut off communications to all in an effort to prevent a perceived threat to public safety without going through well defined procedures.

This wasn't the point I was making though - as I said above, MY temptation Ibeing a dick, myself) now would be to take the service away entirely. That eliminates any future legal quibbles at all.
posted by antifuse at 7:15 PM on August 30, 2011


Yes, but if your chief concern is safety you have to start balancing the permanent advantages mobile communication can give your passengers as compared to the temporary potential problems from protests.

Cell phones have been a big help in rowdy stadiums, for example, because you can call for security without whoever is causing the trouble in your section noticing.

This is about safety, right?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:26 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


After you, Delmoi. Read the forum comments

Sounds scientific.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 PM on August 31, 2011


Also, what's with this weird obsession about not being 'inconvenienced' Do you think the Montgomery bus boycotts didn't 'inconvenience' anyone? They had to shut down the entire bus system. I'm sure there were people who said "All you have to do is change seats, what's the big deal!?"

On the other hand, BART is literally shooting people to death, and clearly being dead is a bigger inconvenience then sitting at the back of the bus or having your commute delayed.

You people are seriously misunderstanding the point of things like a protest. It's not to make people like you.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not pretend that the only thing the Montgomery bus boycotts were about was that they had to sit at the back of the bus, shall we? Jim Crow laws, and the segregation of blacks and whites on a systematic basis aren't exactly an equal comparison to what the BART cop shootings represent - unless I am seriously missing something. Is there evidence of a systematic problem of BART cops shooting people to death on a regular basis? The only shootings I can find reference to are the Charles Hill shooting in July, Oscar Grant back in 2009, and then one back in 2001 and one in 1992. This doesn't seem to be a problem inherent with the BART police force that needs fixing, as far as I can tell. Whether or not any of those were justified shootings, there is hardly an epidemic of BART cop shootings going on.

What *is* the point of these people protesting BART? Are they hoping to get BART cops' guns taken away? Is that the kind of thing that would require voters to vote on? Or is it something that BART uppity-ups would decide on their own? Either way, I would imagine that it would only happen if public sentiment was calling for it, which an inconveniencing protest like this rarely helps. Or were they just protesting to let the folks at BART know that they don't like it when their cops shoot people?
posted by antifuse at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2011


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