San Francisco News

BART internally conflicted over cellphone action

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
BART board internally conflicted over cellphone action BART Board President Bob Franklin Police arrest 45 people in demonstration against BART Police make arrests in BART protest Protesters march up and down Market Street An unidentified protester uses his cell phone during a protest at the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.

After Monday's messy commute because of a protest, one BART official is trying to make peace. However, with another demonstration scheduled for next week, there may be more commuter chaos to come.

What a difference 24 hours can make. Here is what you missed -- or did not miss -- in the BART station at Civic Center Plaza, Monday night. There was a protest held for the sake of the public good, according to the hacker group "Anonymous."

On commuter said, "Well I appreciate what they are trying to do, but it didn't help me get home."

Lots of people couldn't get home with a mob moving from the Civic Center BART Station, then up and down Market Street to the Powell Street Station, and forcing a series of running closures throughout the early evening, all in continuing protest of BART's shutting off underground cellphone service on Aug. 11, to prevent yet another demonstration after BART police shot a transient on July 3. Anonymous has asked the transit agency for a public apology.

"Well I think we should apologize to people we inconvenienced and it's unfortunate we had to cut off cellphone service to them. But there's going to be times when public safety is at risk, there's going to be some disruption of cell service in this country. "

Monday night, BART police took a strong and forceful stand against demonstrators. They gave clear warnings to disburse and then they arrested anyone who started chanting or attempted to raise a sign. The message from BART has been clear: demonstrating is fine, but protesting beyond the fare gates is illegal.

"If you want to protest, you are welcome to do so outside of the fare gates. You are welcome to attend our meeting tomorrow to discuss this, or at any of our board meetings -- its open to the public," said Franklin.

"People are getting tired of it. The passengers are getting tired of it. And I think we just need to put it in the right forum once again, which is in our BART Board room tomorrow, just to discuss this, to not inconvenience people or put our passengers at risk."

Anonymous calls shutting off cellphone service a violation of free speech. Enough so that San Francisco police arrested about 40 of them, Monday night, for failing to disperse. The San Francisco District Attorney's Office is still deciding whether to press charges.

"I do not think there is any particular tough or lack of tough based on the number of protests. It's a case-by-case basis we're looking at," said Seth Steward from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

As for BART, its board will hold a public hearing on the cellphone cut-off on Wednesday. Within the board, itself, there now appears to be some debate. On Tuesday, BART Board Member Lynette Sweet on ABC7's 7live, "In this case, that's all we had to stand up and do is say, 'We're wrong. We should not have cut off cell service on Aug. 11, we should have let the BART board put a policy in place, and we should have talked it through."

On Wednesday, the BART Board will talk about that issue at 9 a.m. at 344 20th Street in Oakland and the public will have an opportunity to comment.

Also, at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, two protesters from last week's protest will appear in court. They will be arranged on charges of resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.

ABC7's Nick Smith contributed to this report.

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hacking, BART, protest, san francisco news, wayne freedman
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