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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BART to Consider New Policy for Cutting Cellphone Service

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 3:10 PM

click to enlarge This photo may have been taken and transmitted via cellphone
  • This photo may have been taken and transmitted via cellphone

Just as the weekly BART protests have become a faded memory, the transit agency released its  new proposed policy that would allow BART to temporarily cut cellphone service -- but only in extraordinary, 9/11-type scenarios.

So if you are planning to use your cellphone as an explosive, or use it to facilitate violent activity, or to collude with others substantially disrupt service, then, yes, BART could -- and probably would -- jam cellphone service at the stations, said Bob Franklin, president of the BART Board of Directors.

The policy recommendation, which will go before the board for consideration next week, comes just two months after BART was highly criticized for shutting off wireless service on Aug. 11 to prevent protesters from coordinating a demonstration at the stations. The cellphone interruption only provoked protesters and members of Anonymous, which purportedly hacked into BART's website and released personal information of both passengers and police.

Yet Franklin tells us that this new policy, if passed, means BART wouldn't interrupt cellphone service to keep protesters from organizing.

"It could apply, but it would have to be extraordinary circumstance, and the example given is if people chained themselves to a BART train, which could trap 8,000 people in the Transbay Tube -- then we would have to deal with it," Franklin said.

Read the proposed policy here.

Protesters had spread the word that they would gather at the Civic Center BART station on Aug. 11 to protest BART police after the July 3 fatal shooting of Charles Hill, a transient who allegedly threatened BART police with a knife. BART caught wind of this plan, and in a last-ditch effort to stop the chaos, it made the executive decision to completely cut cellphone service to all passengers at four stations.

Needless to say, that didn't go over well with most people (except for Republicans), and the BART board later conceded it had overreacted.

 "It's not a clear-cut 'yes we did the right thing,' or 'no we didn't do the right thing,'" Franklin says in retrospect. "But if police had just gone in there and started wholesale arresting people in advance [of the protest], it would have created a much greater uproar."

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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert has been Online News Editor for SF Weekly since 2010. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.


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