San Francisco officials cut off phone signals to train passengers to thwart protest over police killing

Commuters entering and exiting a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in San Francisco's financial district. Picture: AP

Commuters entering and exiting a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in San Francisco's financial district. Picture: AP

In the article entitled The London Riots and How They Will be Used to the Elite’s Advantage, I described how the prolonged crises can be used to justify illegal actions and police state tactics – on a global scale. We saw a perfect example of this last Thursday when the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in San Francisco shut down mobile communications when word got out that a protest was being planned against a police killing. Here’s an article about this extreme response and its relation to the London riots.

AN illegal, Orwellian violation of free-speech rights? Or just a smart tactic to protect train passengers from rowdy would-be demonstrators during a busy evening commute?

Those are some of the questions being asked in San Francisco after officials of the Bay Area Rapid Transit cut off underground mobile phone signals at several stations for a few hours last Thursday.

Commuters at stations from downtown to near the city’s main airport were affected as BART officials sought to tactically thwart a planned protest over the recent fatal shooting of a 45-year-old man by transit police.

The decision has been questioned by civil rights and legal experts and drew backlash from one transit board member who was taken aback by the move.

“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’s board of directors.

“In my opinion, we’ve let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that’s not fair.”

Similar questions of censorship have arisen in recent days as the British Government put the idea of curbing social media services on the table in response to several nights of looting and violence in London and other English cities.

British police claim that young criminals used Twitter and Blackberry messages to coordinate looting sprees in riots.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government, spy agencies and the communications industry were looking at whether there should be limits on the use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook or services like BlackBerry Messenger to spread disorder.

The suggestions have met with outrage, with some critics comparing Mr Cameron to the despots ousted during the Arab Spring.

In the San Francisco instance, Ms Sweet said BART board members were told by the agency of its decision during the closed portion of its meeting on Thursday afternoon, less than three hours before the protest was scheduled to start.

“It was almost like an afterthought,” Ms Sweet told The Associated Press.

“This is a land of free speech and for us to think we can do that shows we’ve grown well beyond the business of what we’re supposed to be doing and that’s providing transportation. Not censorship.”

But there are nuances to consider, including under what conditions, if any, an agency like BART can act to deny the public access to a form of communication — and essentially decide that a perceived threat to public safety trumps free speech.

These situations are largely new ones, of course. A couple of decades ago, during the fax-machine and pay-phone era, the notion of people organising mass gatherings in real time on wireless devices would have been fantasy.

BART Deputy Police Chief Benson Fairow said the issue boiled down to the public’s well-being.

“It wasn’t a decision made lightly. This wasn’t about free speech. It was about safety,” Mr Fairow told KTVU-TV on Friday.

BART spokesman Jim Allison maintained that the mobile phone disruptions were legal as the agency owns the property and infrastructure. He added while they didn’t need the permission of mobile carriers to temporarily cut service, they notified them as a courtesy.

The decision was made after agency officials saw details about the protest on an organiser’s website. Mr Allison said the agency had extra staff and officers aboard trains during that time for anybody who wanted to report an emergency, as well as courtesy phones on station platforms.

“I think the entire argument is that some people think it created an unsafe situation is faulty logic,” Mr Allison said.

“BART had operated for 35 years without mobile phone service and no one ever suggested back then that a lack of it made it difficult to report emergencies and we had the same infrastructure in place.”

But as in London, BART’s tactic drew immediate comparisons to authoritarianism, including acts by the former president of Egypt to squelch protests demanding an end to his rule. Authorities there cut internet and mobile phone services in the country for days earlier this year. He left office shortly thereafter.

“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.

Echoing that comparison, vigorous weekend discussion on Twitter was labelled with the hashtag “muBARTek”.

Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specialises in free-speech issues, was equally critical, saying BART clearly violated the rights of demonstrators and other passengers.

“We can arrest and prosecute people for the crimes they commit,” he said.

“You are not allowed to shut down people’s cell phones and prevent them from speaking because you think they might commit a crime in the future.”

Michael Risher, the American Civil Liberty Union’s Northern California staff attorney, echoed the sentiment in a 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.”

On Saturday at a station where mobile phone service was disrupted, passenger Phil Eager, 44, shared the opinion that BART’s approach seemed exaggerated.

“It struck me as pretty strange and kind of extreme,” said Mr Eager, a San Francisco attorney.

“It’s not a First Amendment debate, but rather a civil liberties issue.”

Mr Eager said many of his friends riding BART on Thursday were upset with the agency’s actions, some even calling it a “police state”.

Mark Malmberg, 58, of Orinda, California, believes that BART could have used a different approach instead of shutting down cellphone usage.

“Even though it sounds like they wanted to avoid a mob gathering, you can’t stop people from expressing themselves,” Mr Malmberg said.

“I hope those who protest can do so in a civil manner.”

–, San Francisco officials cut off phone signals to train passengers to thwart protest over police killing

In response to the mobile shut down, BART’s site was hacked by Anonymous and sensible user information was leaked.

myBART site hacked with Anonymous logo

BART is contemplating shutting down the service this Monday, August 15th due to a possible protest. And that’s how the snowball starts rolling.

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79 Comments on "San Francisco officials cut off phone signals to train passengers to thwart protest over police killing"

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I live in San Francisco, and though I agree with most things posted on here, I do believe waht BART did was for safety. These protesters disturbing BART trains are not affecting BART as much as they are affecting the families that need to get home to families after a long days work. Having cell phone service in the tunnels in a luxory, we did not have service in there for the past 30 years, and did just fine. The protesters shove and fight, and people have nothing to do with it and are trying to get home. The shootings are not BART's fault but the BART Police's fault. The people should PROTEST BART POLICE HEADQUARTERS!! Why punish the everyday person trying to go home to their family? Punich BART Police. Do you guys realize you are just giving BART police more jobs because they have to bult up to… Read more »

individual rights, anyone? you know, the ones every citizen has to be protected against our government/majority vote at times? example, Supreme court case of Texas vs. Johnson, arguing that desecrating an American flag is free speech. He won the case even though the majority of the public as well as those in government disagreed, because he refered to his BASIC RIGHTS AS A CITIZEN.


The people who decided to play God need to be handcuffed and jailed and tried in court PERIOD!! To continue to allow this trash to continue will only make it continue and get worse. One thing we have learned about Government, the lower the politician on the food chain The Bigger his/her head is, and they really do believe they are Gods, similar to our President. It seems once he started breaking the Constitutional laws it started a wave of empowered little people. It is time!! String these little people up and show that they will not be tolerated. No apologies accepted as politicians are so used to saying what they believe we want to hear that it is virtually impossible for one to be sincere.

Now that people are aware of the fact that this government is corrupt, who will be the first to do something about it…?

The people in San Francisco should protest for the resignation of whoever was responsible for that decision to show that they will not tolerate people with authoritarian mind sets, and such disrespect for the rights of the people in seats of power, wether it be in government or in businesses that the public needs.


haha! I have a neighboor like that. She even uses a pair of binoculars to spy on others and keeps reporting them to whoever is willing to read her monotonous statements. I'm on good terms with her -keep your friends close and your enemies closer as they say- However, my diplomatic husband hates her guts and has a long-term vendetta with her. They have even deliberately damaged each others' cars ages ago.

what if they needed to call the police for help?

hahaha, the police…..for help….hahaha

that's a good one.

naw, but frealz, that never occurred to me.

This isn't related to the post at all, but I have been following this website forever and never really commented, but have read the comments on every post. I'm honestly very confused about what to believe in considering I'm only 14 and my family isn't very religious. It's just that I'm pretty frightened about all the stuff going on in our world right now, and stuff that's going to happen. :/

fear is what makes all this possible.

you understand that, then you have it figured out.

This type of action will of course make the masses hate rioters, without looking at why they're rioting. They will then even hate protesters and would rather become submissive to the power. I say to hell with the phones, it will get worse than this real soon. Let them take what they want! Just don't let them take your freedom, and don't let them put chains on your spirit…FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!!!!

Lady Gaga's video for 'You and I':

It features a lot of MK ultra-esque imagery. Multiple alter imagery as well.. basically this might be purporting the mind of Lady Gaga.

Glad you posted this. I'm seriously considering writing something on that video & it's my sincere hope that VC does as well. Watching that video just completely disgusted me almost to the point of crying. It obviously depicts Gaga in an MK Ultra/torture location being shocked, drugged, and raped into dissociating. I used to have a very close admiration for her & her talent and after seeing that, it gave me all the evidence I needed to see that I needed to keep far away from her works, regardless. I knew all of this before but I suppose that I was simply in denial.

Let´s fight against this satanic agenda (NWO) while we've strengths, and of course we need to help God so he can help us, 'cause if we do nothing, NWO wins and then we cannot cry over spilled milk.

"…The unity of love is the force of freedom…".


We don't have to switch on the telly to watch this. Its all happening under our very nose.

speaking of planned opposition/ Order out of Chaos/ Prob-React-Sol'n…. What do you guys think of 'Anonymous'? i think they are planned opposition. always there to stir the swell, and to ignite the revolutionaries. but what real revolutionaries take polite interviews with RT? w.t.f. (amongst other signs that i've collected that they are Fake.) do tell your opinions… what else… get OFF Facebook as soon as you can. it's the deadly microscope that is focusing the sun and will burn you. think critically, for yourSELF. collect data and compare it. collect data on what has made you HEALTHY and strong. stick to it. ie: read VC's articles in 'Educate Yourself" section. Those that want to control you are after your vibrance and ingenuity. Develop your own intuitions, which have for thousands of years, helped humankind like a compass through the darkness. Look for the patterns of Prob-React-Soln and you will find… Read more »
you are a smart man haha i thought i was the only ones who noticed since no one has ever said anything. but again i think you are right. we people who read these articles on this site are likeminded individuals who believe the govt is false and corrupted. why be "anonymous" we are all one n the same here. i mean for obvious reasons we dont put our actuall information but regardless there is no need. and plus to stir the people this early would be pointless, they arent ready to see the truth. like i said earlier, the people will wait until the obvious happens before they believe what you, i and countless others preach. and that is why they will pay for it, because they lack the faith to be a believer. they are the people who need to hear a song backwards before they think jay-z's… Read more »

No surprise here. Gov't loves that we all use cell phones. While it's convenient, it creates even more invasion of privacy.

you are most certainly right. the government giggles at the fact that people as young as 9 are glued to their cell phones. the people have no idea that if they felt like it they could obseve every conversation and every text message you send. even the very messages we type on this website. the govt's invasion of privacy has already begun and is swinging in full effect, and it will only get worse seeing the Bible states how bad it must become before the Son of God returns. and in those times if you think that you will be able to mention 'illuminati' or 'bomb' or 'terrorist' anywhere and it not trigger a thousdand "red alerts" then people are mistaken. i personally believe that eventually we will have moved past cellular devices because the media keeps portraying the world as a "Cyborg operated" world where everything will be run… Read more »
I understand why some people are calling social media and cel-phone call access a privilege, not a right. It's all still fairly new and perhaps the world would be just as good off, if not better, without it all (A theory I'm unwilling to test on a grand scale). But I also see it like this, as long as we're talking about freedom: The reality is that things DO change over, and even the US Constitution is aging in certain areas. The framers encouraged its fellow United States People to change it if it was seen fit to do so, in order to avoid injustice. Now, I also look at one key thing they addressed in their time: Their greatest means of mass communication was the press, and they believed that freedom of the press was included in the freedom of speech. I can't say for sure, but I at… Read more »

Reminds me of minority report.

That's why there's all this talk about gun control and making gun possession illegal. We were given the right to bear arms in the 2nd amendment of the United States Constitution, not only for self-defense, but to overthrow/protect ourselves in case our government became corrupt. Our forefathers thought of this since they themselves had fought against the corrupt control Britain had over the original 13 colonies.

Of course, I take most education about American history with a grain of salt, since we have probably been fed some half-truths with all that, however it is still and interesting point to look at.

Let's be frank: the 2nd amendment was written in a time where the musket rifle was the most prominent weapon, not a semi-automatic pistol that can carry a machine clip that holds 41 bullets. If you ask me we still need some form of gun control because there are some mentally deranged people who should NOT be allowed to possess any kind of firearm.

A criminal's a criminal no matter the law. One more law won't stop street scum from robbing you or raping your girl, but if that criminal figured his odds were low due to the high possibility that you're also packing, (s)he might think twice. Criminals prey on those they think are weak. If the common man becomes a warrior once more, he will cease to be a victim.

I agree with Matty, you can't defend your self from a armed hoodlum with a can of pepper spray. Own a gun, take gun classes, be prepared for the worst, so that you are capable of defending yourself and loved ones against the deranged people who are armed.

We don't need more gun laws. Just enforce the ones we already have.

@Joe: Not only that, but the right can actually be traced to British law, which required every freeman to have arms in his house. And the American congress went on to REQUIRE that Free American Men own a rifle and the bullets and powder to use it AND store it at their home.

Arms control in the USA first came in the South, when the whites passed laws aimed at disarming blacks. These laws were so successful that they ended up framing the discussion until the mid-sixties, when fear of crime and a simple wish for a feeling of security outside the home started the shift of the NRA into its present incarnation as Holy Defenders of the 2nd Amendment.

"…to disarm the people – that was the best and most effectual way to enslave them."

George Mason – Father of the Bill of Rights

Dictators and Gun Control:

Even the Dalai Lama & Ghandi support gun ownership. Free men own guns, slaves do not.

I wasn't insinuating not to have gun control, I was just making a point of the reason behind the 2nd amendment.

Didn't mean to start a debate, but I do have an opinion. People just need to remember that criminals will ALWAYS find away to access illegal things & activities (ie, drugs, prostitution, gambling, theft, etc.) Why do people think it would be any different if guns were illegal? Deranged people are just that — degranged people!! They are resourceful and shrewd to commit their crimes. It's best if we have a defense if things get out of control. Get educated!

Huh? Are you talking to me? Debates are good for us! And I agree with you, on all of it – 100%

Well you said that there's all this talk about making gun possession illegal which is not true. Plus the post made it seem like gun control is a problem. Finally we all have to learn to chill out; other countries in the world have a much higher gun ownership capita than us but not even 1/10th of the homicides due to guns that we have.

what people need to realize is that these ingrates do not need to be called "elites" i wonder who proposed they be called that in the first place.. a little off topic yes but now my main point. police state is here and if you dont believe me look on the news and if you dont prefer to watch it because you are like me and it completely disgusts you then listen to the people who do watch it and you will here about the riots and the unlawful shootings… if we have any sense we wouldnt stand for these outrageous assults on our unalienable rights. how can we pursue happyness if everything we say is goingto be censored by the 'ingrates' or if they decide theyre going to watch everything we do and shut things down i.e. phone services how can we live life. why do we have to… Read more »

The Police state is here!

Sorta related…..

Google buys Motorola….

and Microsoft buys Skype…..

Hmmm…. I don't feel very comfortable with this direction.

Google is also releasing their social network google plus.

Hey Matmar!!! Did you catch this?

Use your real name or else. New social network will force Google+ users to identify themselves.. or leave the site:

"The company has recently launched the network as a rival to Facebook.

But If Google learns the name you're using on the network is not your real name, you have just four days to clean up your act. If you don't your profile will be removed."

Hey Sarah Connor, Wow, no I didn't know they required a REAL name. Thats really friggin weird. I don't plan on getting one. I used to use stumbleupon but fell out with that. Pretty soon when you get pulled over the officer will be able to pull up your friends list and all of your "likes". In that video clip theres this little guru guy who says "when you search for something what do you use?" answer: google whats your email? answer: Google (gmail) Do you use RSS? Answer: google, reader "See you don't need to choose google plus…sooner or later you're going to end up using it." Creeeeeeeeeeeepy I can't remember if it was youtube or gmail that had the option to put in a phone number. I'm pretty sure it was youtube. Why would you need to put that in? I'm really sick of requirements on the net,… Read more »

Sounds like that movie with tom cruise. Cant think of the name something Report… How can you charge someone of a crime they haven't commited yet. I mean how about charging someone for shooting someone just because they brought a gun. It's a neverending story. Jz and beyounce and black eyes peas showed us in they videos what we should be doing, marching in a straight line and wearring the same clothes as everyone else just like robots. Sad to say the lease… Oh yeah I forgot, and telling on everyone who looks like they may want to blow something up…

It's Minority Report, and yes, it does sound a little like that.

Hmmm…do you remember when movies were "just" fantasy? Does it seem the creepier these more modern movies are, the more we see them reflected in real life? Or maybe I'm just paying more attention. My parents used to joke that all the stuff in the sci-fi movies back in the '50's and 60's would really happen some day. The weird thing is, much of it actually did.

Some are just movies, while many others are deliberate predictive programming.

Call me when the fake alien invasion begins

I am glad that there was such an outcry about this. Perhaps the elite still have a lot to figure out when it comes to controlling people.

Caught in a bad romance.