[Marxism] Cell phones blocked to disrupt protest in SF

Alistair Boyd-Bell andrensath at gmail.com
Tue Aug 16 16:43:31 MDT 2011

What's the bet that the 'special areas' are well out of public view, badly
signposted, or both?
On Aug 17, 2011 10:38 AM, "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
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> Officials block cellphone reception in San Francisco train stations to
> disrupt protest plans
> By Associated Press, Published: August 12 | Updated: Saturday, August
> 13, 2:30 PM
> SAN FRANCISCO — A decision by San Francisco Bay Area transit officials
> to cut off cell phone service at some of its stations to thwart a
> planned protest drew angry response Saturday from one transit board
> member who said she was shocked that officials acted as “this type of
> censor.”
> Bay Area Rapid Transit officials have said they shut down power Thursday
> evening to cellular towers for stations stretching from downtown to the
> San Francisco’s airport after learning protesters planned to use mobile
> devices to coordinate its demonstration.
> “I’m just shocked that they didn’t think about the implications of this.
> We really don’t have the right to be this type of censor,” said Lynette
> Sweet, who serves on BART board. “In my opinion, we’ve let the actions
> of a few people affect everybody. And that’s not fair.”
> BART Deputy Police Chief Benson Fairow on Friday told KTVU-TV that the
> agency decided to turn off underground cell service because it received
> reports that a rowdy group that had protested in July had similar plans.
> “It all boils down to the safety of the public,” Fairow said. “It wasn’t
> a decision made lightly. This wasn’t about free speech. It was about
> safety.”
> To some, BART’s tactic drew comparisons to those of former president of
> Egypt to squelch protests demanding an end to his authoritarian rule.
> Authorities there cut Internet and cellphone services in the country for
> days earlier this year.
> “BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former
> president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation
> said on its website.
> Michael Risher, the American Civil Liberty Union’s Northern California
> staff attorney wrote in blog: “The government shouldn’t be in the
> business of cutting off the free flow of information. 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.”
> The ACLU already has a scheduled meeting with BART Police Chief Kenton
> Rainey on Monday over other issues and Thursday’s incident will added to
> the agenda, spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer said Saturday.
> Yet others said while the phone shut-down was worth examining, it may
> not have impinged on First Amendment rights. Gene Policinski, executive
> director of the First Amendment Center, a nonprofit educational
> organization, said freedom of expression can be limited in very narrow
> circumstances if there is an immediate threat to public safety.
> “An agency like BART has to be held to a very high standard,” he said.
> “First of all, it has to be an immediate threat, not just the mere
> supposition that there might be one. And I think the response has to be
> what a court would consider reasonable, so it has to be the minimum
> amount of restraint on free expression.”
> He said if BART’s actions are challenged, a court may look more
> favorably on what it did if expression was limited on a narrow basis for
> a specific area and time frame, instead of “just indiscriminately
> closing down cell phone service throughout the system or for a broad
> BART officials were confident the cellphone disruptions were legal. It
> said in a statement that it’s illegal to demonstrate on the platform or
> aboard the trains, and that it has set aside special areas for
> demonstrations.
> “We had a commute that was safe and without disruption,” BART spokesman
> Jim Allison said Friday.
> The demonstrators were going to hold a second protest over the fatal
> shooting of Charles Blair Hill by BART police on July 3 at the Civic
> Center/UN Plaza station in San Francisco. Hill was shot in the torso by
> officers responding to reports of a “wobbly drunk” The officers claim
> Hill came at them with a knife.
> Several protesters were taken into custody after a demonstration on July
> 11 disrupted service during the rush-hour commute and prompted the
> closing of BART’s Civic Center station.
> BART has been battling image problems after a white officer fatally shot
> an unarmed black passenger on New Year’s Day 2009 at an Oakland train
> station that led to violent protests.
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