San Francisco News

Protest closes BART stations, frustrates commuters

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
A protester in downtown San Francisco. bart protest Bart Protest FILE - In this July 11, 2011 file photo, a man is pulled off a commuter train at the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco after climbing on top of it during a protest against the July 3 shooting by transit police of Charles Blair Hill.

Demonstrators, organized by the group Anonymous, converged on San Francisco BART stations Monday for a protest, fallout after BART shut down cell service last week over threatened protests about a police shooting at a BART station last month.

The protests disrupted BART service in San Francisco during the evening commute, with the Civic Center station being shut down after protesters began to disrupt train service. Access to the Powell Street, Montgomery Street and Embarcadero stations were also limited throughout the evening and street traffic was impacted as protesters marched up Market Street towards Montgomery Station and then back down towards the Embarcadero.

The effort was staged by hackers who broke into a website and published private information of BART customers. The hacker group threatened to wage war against BART and its members and supporters may be making good on that promise.

"When they're going to start clamping down on people's free speech and people's voice, then that's when I get offended and realize I need to come out and show my support for American free speech which is the most important," protester Angel Nora said.

BART Chief Spokesperson Linton Johnson says protests are fine, as long as they take place outside the fare gates.

"They can do it outside; I welcome it they can say whatever they want about me and BART or anything else they want to say," Johnson said.

"Who are these people who are furthering their political agenda by basically trespassing on my personal rights," hacking victim Kelcey Poe said.

The group that hacked into BART's website and exposed hundreds of BART riders' names, phone numbers and addresses calls itself Anonymous for a reason.

"They don't want to go on her record with who they are; they won't even tell you who they are," CNET senior writer Elinor Mills said.

Mills has been tracking the group since last year. She says they are global, but they also have ties in the Bay Area. There's no real leader and they have proven in previous online attacks, they know how to do damage.

"They're more online activists; they really have a message or messages to spread and they're using the Internet as a way to do that," Mills said.

BART says it shut down cellphone service to protect its customers and while the transit agency did not rule out doing it again Monday, cell service was fine throughout the protests.

"Let it be known the protesters did this, not BART," Johnson said. "We were forced into a decision that we had to make in order to protect the safety of our customers."

Commuters, caught in the middle of the standoff between protesters and BART police, were not pleased.

"I wish they could take this to the BART police station or what not instead of inconveniencing everyone," BART rider Ayanna Tate said. "We have children, you know, we have families that we're trying to get home to."

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hacking, BART, protest, san francisco news, cecilia vega
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