HolyCoast: San Francisco Shuts Off Dissent With a Flick of a Switch

Saturday, August 13, 2011

San Francisco Shuts Off Dissent With a Flick of a Switch

And I approve:
Transit officials blocked cellphone reception in San Francisco train stations for three hours to disrupt planned demonstrations over a police shooting.

Officials with the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, better known as BART, said Friday that they turned off electricity to cellular towers in four stations from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. The move was made after BART learned that protesters planned to use mobile devices to coordinate a demonstration on train platforms.

The tactic drew comparisons to those used by the 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.

Using the comparison, protestors took to Twitter to express their outrage with the hashtag #muBARTak.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the tactic, saying on its blog that it was the “wrong response to political protests.”

BART officials were confident the cellphone disruptions were legal. They 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.

The demonstration planned Thursday failed to develop. “We had a commute that was safe and without disruption,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.
If the purpose of the demonstration is to disrupt normal operations and the lives of those who use the train system for their daily commute, then I have no problem with the official's decision to shut off the cell towers. Cell phone service is not a right, it's a privilege, and if it's going to be abused for the purpose of civil disobedience, it should be shut off.

Plus as a side benefit, people in the BART stations didn't have to listen to a lot idiots yammering on their phones. Win-win.

No comments: