"White people's skin is their jewelry." -Heems
Here, San Franciscicisans, explain to me this cell service blackout. What the fuck.
BART is a separate legal entity from the City and County of San Francisco. BART answers to BART, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the Feds.
Edit: I should add that the protest was for a BART police shooting last month in which a man was killed. After the Oscar Grant shooting in 2009, most people aren't too fond of BART cops.
Last edited by skyismad; 08-12-2011 at 09:19 PM.
I wish they hadn't bloody done it this week, David Cameron must be spunking himself dry about it.
Did they jam transmitters or just have some switched off? The articles I'm reading are treating the two as interchangeable.
This is just shameful.
BART's shut-off of subterranean cell phone service in its downtown San Francisco stations may have prevented a protest Thursday, but it sparked accusations Friday that the action stifled free speech and smacked of the kind of government intrusion employed by Middle East dictators.
"All over the world, people are using mobile devices to protest oppressive regimes, and governments are shutting down cell phone towers and the Internet to stop them," said Michael Risher, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. "It's outrageous that in San Francisco, BART is doing the same thing."
BART officials acknowledged Friday afternoon that they had switched off the transit system's underground cell phone network, which runs from Balboa Park Station through the Transbay Tube, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday to prevent protesters from coordinating plans to stop trains.
A cluster of groups under the "No Justice, No BART" banner said on websites that they planned to protest the fatal July 3 shooting of a knife-wielding man, Charles Blair Hill, by BART police. Protesters briefly shut down the Civic Center, Powell Street and 16th Street Mission stations July 11. Trains ran through the stations without stopping.
"Organizers planning to disrupt BART service stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police," the transit agency said. "A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators."
A 'recipe for disaster'
Contrary to some speculative reports, BART did not jam wireless signals or ask cell phone providers to shut down towers near stations. BART owns and controls the wireless network strung through its subways, and BART police ordered it switched off, after receiving permission from BART interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman, former general counsel for the transit district.
Benson Fairow, BART's deputy police chief, said he decided to switch off the service out of concern that protesters on station platforms could clash with commuters, create panicked surges of passengers, and put themselves or others in the way of speeding trains or the high-voltage third rails.
"It was a recipe for disaster," he said. "The fact that they started to conspire to commit illegal actions on the station platform was our concern. I asked myself: If my wife, mother or daughter was on that platform, would I want them to be in that situation?"
Civil libertarians questioned the constitutionality of BART's decision and predicted legal action, or at least serious investigation by the Federal Communications Commission.
"The most pertinent right in question is the right to free expression," said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group. "BART makes the point that a few years ago you couldn't even use your cell phone in the stations, but that's beside the point. At this point, they have made a policy of allowing it on the platform.
"To withdraw that ability to express yourself ... under a desire to prevent particular political speech between protesters was a shocking disregard of the free speech rights of every BART passenger and, indeed, was a prior restraint on any expressive activity they would otherwise have engaged in."
Question of control
While BART owns and controls the wireless network in its tunnels, it might not have the right to shut it off to halt a protest, ACLU's Risher said.
"Once BART opens a forum for expression, their authority to close it down becomes a little more limited," he said. "As far as I know, no governmental entity in this country has ever done anything like this."
BART spokesman Jim Allison said this was the first time the transit agency shut down the underground wireless system because of public safety concerns.
Fairow said that BART considered the free speech implications posed by the cell phone shutdown but decided that those rights were outweighed by the need to protect the public.
"It's the constant juggle," he said. "The courts have ruled that some inconvenience is OK (to protect free speech) but the courts have also ruled that public safety takes priority."
BART allows free speech - from protesting to proselytizing - outside the paid areas of stations. But it's not suitable inside the fare gates, and especially on the train platforms, he said.
But even some BART riders thought the tactic seemed very un-Bay Area.
"We don't want the government turning off cell phones in Syria, and we don't want them turning off cell phones here," said Patricia Shean, 72, of San Francisco. "We deal with things differently here."
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...#ixzz1UvNWkbmr
I'm all against protesting the unnecessary violence at the hands of BART police officers but I think clogging platforms/shutting down trains is counterproductive. They piss off BART officials, sure, but they piss even more people off that are trying to go about their day. Including BART drivers, who I don't think are complicit in the actions of the police officers that kill people.
You're missing the point....shutting down communications is not only dangerous (what if you needed to contact your ride, your mother, etc), but it's also illegal. It also sets a dangerous precedent...this isn't something that we do here in America, let alone in San Francisco.
You either support first amendment rights or you don't. If you don't, then you can have the country we're getting these days. Things are bleak and getting more bleak as we continue to sit idly by and let the corporations and crooked, bought politicians whittle away at our civil rights and national treasury.
("you" and "we" used in the general sense, not you personally)
How is it illegal?
I'm not trying to be contrary, I would like to know what laws state that they must provide cellular service within the stations, or that state they are not allowed to disrupt the antennae that are within their premises.
I don't see this as dangerous - if someone needed to make a call, they can simply leave the station for a moment... as they did before the antennas were installed. (Hell, I have AT&T and my cell phone doesn't work at most of the stations even when the antennas are functional :P ).
Is protesting inside the paid areas of BART actually fully legal? I'd be shocked if there aren't passenger regulations to this effect, that we implicitly agree to when we purchase a fare (or use a pass) and enter the patron areas.
Last edited by chiapet; 08-13-2011 at 08:42 AM.
Yes, it's certainly people like me who are the problem. The problem is not people like you who rely on name-calling rather than being able to support your claims with facts or at least some sort of... logic.
I take that to mean that no one has seen anything from a position of legal authority stating this was illegal? (Just because a blog says it, doesn't mean it's true).
They shut off the repeaters that BART had installed within their premises, which were used to bring service into areas not covered by the telecom owned towers in the area, so effectively they were disabling service that they had previously voluntarily provided to their customers.
I have not been able to find anything that states turning off a repeater is illegal. The repeaters are intended only to provide service within the BART property, not the surrounding public spaces (which are already served by cell towers in the area). I would hope you could understand that disabling a repeater is not the same as disabling cell towers.
Saying that this violated the protesters' First Amendment right is ridiculous. They weren't prevented from protesting, it was made significantly less convenient for them to do so.
(And look, I never said this was a good thing... I just shake my head at people who call every action 'illegal' and claim every inconvenience is a violation of their rights. To compare what happened here this week to what has happened in the Middle East is truly baffling to me. Most people in this country haven't any clue what it means to have rights stripped away).
Last edited by chiapet; 08-13-2011 at 12:34 PM.
Yeah, I can see a case if they were jamming signals, but withdrawing service is a lot less clear cut.
I don't like the precedent it sets at all, but I'm not sure there's a strict legal argument to be made.
Right, jamming the signal is illegal. Every blog I've seen that cites any reason why what BART did was illegal, is in fact stating regulations around jamming signals. But no one is claiming that they jammed cellular signals, only that they turned off repeaters on their property.
MP - the area in which this occurred is really well covered by cell towers. This wouldn't impact street level cellular reception, or most likely even signal in the underground non-passenger areas.
The portion of the transit system that protesters were going to target is the paid/passenger area, the platforms between train tracks, which are at least a few stories underground. Without the repeaters, you would most likely lose signal as you descend into the lower level of the station. (FWIW, even with the repeaters, not everyone gets a signal strong enough to use their phones anyway).
I don't know that it really sets a precedent that can be avoided, since there is no guarantee to cellular service in such a location/situation anyway. I would be concerned with a move towards allowing local or state government the right to jam or shut down towers in the interest of "public safety." (Right now only feds can jam signals illegally).
As for the protesters, I guess I have little sympathy because cell phone signal is so iffy in the stations that it seems stupid to hinge the effectiveness of your protest on your ability to text or call updates to other people, in that specific location. Seems like poor planning to me.
Last edited by chiapet; 08-13-2011 at 12:57 PM.
It's still a terrible precedent to set. You can't cut people's communications every time you think they're going to speak out against you, that's some Middle Eastern dictator shit, not some land of the free shit. This is especially true for an entity the public pays for.
BART should be protested for a lot of reasons, like allowing trains to get so old and decrepit that they're finding traces of MRSA on them. They need to revamp that system and change the hours.
It's better to try and find ways to protest the administration directly, not the low level employees and users. If you clog train traffic for an hour and make some unsuspecting sap late to work, maybe for the final time, you're a massive dick who's doing as much harm as good.
Am I correct here: the protesters could have called each other from anywhere in the world, they could have called from outside the station, but people are crying foul because the couldn't reach each other within the stations or from inside the trains themselves?
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They expected to have phones available, so they built the plan around phones.
In the old days, they used to use walkie talkies, in answer to that question. Some of the more serious/hardcore groups still do because you can't trace them.
talk of the repeaters and freedom of speech have now totally eclipsed the cause of the protests.
Not to seem insensitive, but the precedent it sets has arguably further reaching implications.
I have yet to hear anyone defend the move. I think someone at BART just made a bad call. I don't think this is a sign of anything worse than that.
but if people want to keep getting worked up, fine.
We've been yelling at Middle Eastern régimes for months now for having the douchenuts to suspend telecommunications in the name of "public safety". We lose the moral high ground on that one if we start doing it ourselves. Although I acknowledge that may not always count for much, it does count for something, and it's a stupid point to concede so easily.
At the height of the rioting, David Cameron very seriously suggested having Blackberry messaging suspended so that they couldn't co-ordinate. At the time, plenty of people looked at him aghast, because to them (us) doing so was unthinkable under any conditions whatsoever. If this had happened a few weeks earlier, I'm pretty sure a lot of the work would have been done for him already in terms of talking people round.
If we start thinking of telecommunications as something less than sacrosanct, it gets really easy to find arguments to suspend or interfere with it under lots of other circumstances in the name of public safety. To me, it's a very troubling psychological threshold to see crossed.
Actually they probably could have even gone back up to the lobby level of the stations (~2 stories underground) to make calls. But not on the actual platform.
MP, I'd agree with the argument regarding the precedent, if they had actually terminated or jammed cell signals within public space (like at the street level). If BART had done something to interfere with the cell broadcast (rather than falling to boost the signal into space not covered by the cellular companies' infrastructure), I would be calling foul too.
As it stands, I feel like people in this country confuse "rights" with "conveniences" and "privileges."
Last edited by chiapet; 08-13-2011 at 07:13 PM.
being lost in the international coverage, so from the point of view of precedent, they might as well have actively jammed cell signals.
I was half-hoping they had jammed because it's way easier for somebody to contest that - which is why cinemas haven't gone ahead with localised cell jamming, incidentally - but it's very easy to paint it as the same thing from the right distance anyway.
And I get what you're saying about this being a service that's only been offered relatively recently, but it's one that's existed long enough for people to take for granted and depend on all the same. I believe I'm entitled to expect to avail of an home internet or phone service, for instance, because both of those are necessary to participate in mainstream modern society. BART cell service obviously isn't nearly as critical or reliable like, but the state of the art is always moving, so that could change. That's not an argument I'm invested in enough to fight out like, but I'd find the line there a tricky one to draw.
If an organisation or institution is going to participate in providing a communications network, it seems to me like there's a certain element of responsibility to hold up their end of it.
to exaggerate slightly (and correct me if I am wrong, Heidi), I think what Heidi is saying is that it's like my neighbors complaining when I turn off my unsecured wireless internet. I'm not taking away their right, I'm taking away a service I was offering of my own choice.
though MP, you have a point and I retract my objections.
* And it would be like your neighbors are stupid idiots and not a single one of them thought "maybe I'll rent the DVD we want to watch just in case we can't access the free internet service from our neighbor. You know, as a backup plan."
Uh. Just to clarify, there's a link in that underline, I'm not just being a cock.