BART Cuts Cell Phone Service to Prevent Police Brutality Protest
BART Jams Cell Phone Reception on Platforms to Prevent Demonstration
A demonstration was planned for August 11 to protest the fatal shooting of Charles Blair Hill by a BART police officer. The demonstration never happened, because nobody was able to communicate: cell phone service on several BART platforms was blocked.
CBS reported that BART disabled mobile phone reception on its underground platforms. BART at first claimed that it asked the Bay Area's mobile providers to voluntarily disable their own services, and that the providers complied.
However, BART's statement on the shutdown used the active voice: "BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform". [Update: BART confessed to jamming cell phone reception itself. This is illegal.]
This fails to address the fact that, had a disturbance occurred, other passengers may have had good reason to use their phones.
Besides, it is illegal for anyone other than a federal agency to interfere with communication networks. BART is not a federal agency. It's also arguably a violation of commuters' First Amendment rights.
“This group seems to want to challenge BART, challenge the police department,” Alkire said.
Because heaven forbid anyone should ever challenge the police. After all, BART cops are always right. Setting that aside for a moment, what if Sprint, Verizon, Bell and T-Mobile had chosen not to roll over like well-trained puppies? Should we believe that BART PD would have thrown up their hands and said, "Oh, well"? [Update: now we know that BART carried out the jamming itself.]
It's clear that BART PD is in a shut-'er-down mindset: how badly does San Francisco want to be in the same club as Hosni Mubarak and the British government? BART is claiming that it is within its rights, and not in the Constitutional wrong, by acting as it did, but that may not actually be the case.
BART Sends the Wrong Kind of Message, Gets the Wrong Kind of Attention
The message BART is sending is that it wants its officers to be free to operate with zero comeback from the public. This isn't healthy at all, and will only make it worse for BART in the long run: those protesters are now even angrier, and not just at BART's police force, but at BART itself.
Shooting itself in its other foot, BART also attracted the attention of Anonymous. If Anonymous sets up an IRC chatroom containing your name, its because they're about to do something to you.
(Note: BART PD is not affiliated with the San Francisco Police Department, but is its own law-enforcement entity)