The San Francisco Bay Area’s mass transit system, known as BART, admitted to temporarily shutting down cell phone service in four of its San Francisco stations last night. The suppression of cell signals was apparently a response to the threat of a possible protest over a man shot by BART police last month.
“Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police…BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.” Officials for the transit system explained in a statement.
Cnet reports that the disruption was planned to protest the death of 45-year-old Charles Blair Hill, a homeless man who was shot by BART police on July 3 for throwing bottles and brandishing a four-inch knife. The protest against BART police failed to actualize itself last night.
Cell phone service was not suspended outside of the select BART stations. The cell jamming occurred between 4 p.m. And 7 p.m. PT at the Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic center stations according to BART’s deputy communication officer James Allison. The big carriers who provide service in the tube—Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—were notified after service had been cut.
In their statement, BART officials address issues concerning freedom of speech and safety; however, the transit system is drawing criticism for what some consider a heavy handed tactic.
The Northern California ACLU said, “Shutting down access to mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests, whether it’s halfway around the world or right here in San Francisco. You have the right to speak out.”
Anonymous activists are calling for retaliation against the cell service snuffing with a flyer describing this event as muBARTek, referring to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak creating an internet blackout earlier this year to quell protests.
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