New BART protest causes temporary shutdowns

A statement posted on the BART website regarding the decision to suspend cell and

SAN FRANCISCO – The online activist group Anonymous held a demonstration at the
Civic Center BART station on Monday, leading to the temporary closing
of the Powell and Civic Center BART stations.

The protest began at 5 p.m., and BART
officials proceeded to close and reopen the stations multiple times as demonstrators
congregated and dispersed.

Often described as a loosely-organized group of activist computer hackers,
Anonymous has focused on the decision of BART officials to shut down cell and
wireless internet service inside stations during a previous protest on Aug. 11.
That protest action was a response to the death of Charles Hill on July 3. Hill was
shot and killed by BART police officers after allegedly brandishing a knife.

A statement posted on the BART website regarding the decision to suspend cell and
internet service said that BART police had learned of the Aug. 11 demonstration
in advance.

According to the statement, the day before the planned protest “intelligence
revealed that the individuals would be giving and receiving instructions to
coordinate their activities via cell phone.” That activity extended to tracking the
location of BART police officers using text messages.

BART officials concluded that “the planned action constituted a serious and
imminent threat to the safety of BART passengers and personnel,” and moved to
limit the protestors’ ability to organize by shutting down cell and net service.

Members of Anonymous viewed the move as an abridgement of free speech, a view
that has been seconded by the ACLU of Northern California. They responded by
holding another demonstration on Aug. 16 that resulted in the closure of four
BART stations in downtown San Francisco. BART officials explained the shutdown
as motivated by concerns for the safety of the public and BART employees. Cell
service remained available throughout the protest.

Supporters of the actions against BART have dubbed their efforts “Op BART.” Before
the Aug. 22nd protest, a Twitter feed under that name warned “Linton Johnson,
Expect Us,” a reference to BART spokesman Linton Johnson, who was quoted in
press reports
as saying “there is no right to free speech” inside the fare gates at
BART stations.


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