Skip to comments.SF cell shutdown: Safety issue, or hint of Orwell?
Posted on 08/13/2011 4:02:31 PM PDT by Eleutheria5
SAN FRANCISCO -An illegal, Orwellian violation of free-speech rights? Or just a smart tactic to protect train passengers' safety from rowdy would-be demonstrators during a busy evening commute?
The question resonated Saturday in San Francisco and beyond as details emerged of Bay Area Rapid Transit officials' decision to cut off underground cell phone service for a few hours at some stations Thursday. Commuters at stations from downtown to 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.
Two days later, the move had civil rights and legal experts questioning the agency's move, and drew backlash from one transit board member who was taken aback by the decision.
"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."
Similar questions of censorship have arisen in recently days as Britain's government put the idea of curbing social media services on the table in response to several nights of widespread looting and violence in London and other English cities. Police claim that young criminals used Twitter and Blackberry instant messages to coordinate looting sprees in riots.
(Excerpt) Read more at aolnews.com ...
And if BART had not taken preemptive action in the face of a known threat, and the worst had happened, then the criticism would be unending that they failed to act.
The truth is that “citizens” planned to disrupt the service, and rather than shut down all together, BART did what they needed to do to minimize disruption.
I say “Well done”!
Whose “free speech rights” are being violated? Does the First Amaendment guarantee the “right” to cell phone service?
Whose “free speech rights” are being violated? Does the First Amendment guarantee the “right” to cell phone service?
I wonder how Ms. Sweet feels about the fairness of disarming the law-abiding because of the actions of the lawless (which actually is a constitutional infringement, unlike the failure to provide free cell access)?
Does the State have the right to silence speech? To silence channels of communication?
This is exactly the same as if the State decided to smash printing presses and burn books 20 years ago.
If someone does violence, arrest them and throw the book at them. But don't infringe upon the First Amendment!
Fantastic idea! Here’s another one: Let’s get rid of all the guns. That way, gun violence will no longer exist!
Cell phones are not the problem here. But hey, when you’re Holder’s people you get to do what you want!
I pay my phone bill, so my service better not be shut down because of the threat of thuggery. The cell phones are not to blame here, just as guns are not to blame for gun violence.
“Whose free speech rights are being violated? Does the First Amaendment guarantee the right to cell phone service?”
Your post is myopic, at best. I’ve been on 24 hour emergency call for 28 years. So are doctors, surgeons, etc.. Your view could cost lives! Same thing for laws banning talking on cell phones when driving. My cell is only for emergency calls. Exceptions must be made.
If the state owns its own printing presses and decides to shut them down or restrict access, I see no first amendment issues. It is my understanding that the cell phone service is provided by Bart equipment. If Bart wants to shut it down, or shut down its intercom system if someone took it over, then how is that a free speech issue?
According to the Supreme Court the state (i.e. the public) does own the right to broadcast on the public airwaves, including cell. That is why they auction and license them to private carriers. So, free speech does not include a right to broadcast in the radio spectrum.
Agree with it or not, right or wrong, that is what the law says.
Has America really become so attached to this cell phone phenomenon that we’ve forgotten what it was like to be required to find a coin-operated telephone to make a call, or - gasp! - wait until one reached home or the office to make that call?
So if for example, there is an attempt at some sort of terrorist attack (e.g., Sept 11 is the ten year anniversary) and the gov could, theoretically, exercise the internet kill switch AND a cell phone block to keep terrorists from communicating. Would be kinda surprising to those caught in the middle.
I’m sure that Zer0 is taking notes for election day.
So the federal government can not legislate to prevent peaceable assembly or freedom of speech. I do not think that bart is part of the federal congress. And I do not think that the phone ban prevents freedom of speech in the sense that people are prevented from expressing whatever view they like...it only prevents a particular medium of speech being employed at a certain area. Nor does it impede any peaceable assembly...so even if the bart system were considered part of the federal congress (which seems a stretch to me) I don't see how its a freedom of speech issue.
So with the threat of disruptions and violence at Bart stations they shut down the ability to call 911 for help.
Glad they know the train schedules are more important than the riders personal safety./s
61% of the world population have cell phones. That's over 4 billion.
In June 2011, 234 million Americans 13 & older used a cell phone. That's equal to one cell phone for every adult in the United States.
Can you find coin-operated telephones these days? Did you forget about taking emergency calls? Phones aren't "just" phones either.
Benito would be proud.
Give it a rest.
The marxist idiots can have their "right" back as soon as they exit the station, and spew all the comrade rhetoric they want.
Maybe it's just me, but I don't want to make flash mobs' planning and execution any easier than it already is.
What did you do before reliable sell phones and universal coverage?
If I remember right, pagers worked well, and that's 40 year old technology.
Can’t think of a better way to alert the 99.99% of the citizenry that a serious national threat is in progress.
Don’t like to burst any bubbles, but I don’t have a cell phone, and have never felt the need. Moreover, any time I am required to make a call when out of the house, I am always quite easily able to find a public (coin operated) telephone.
Sorry, but to me a phone is just a phone.
Dont like to burst any bubbles, but I dont have a cell phone, and have never felt the need. Moreover, any time I am required to make a call when out of the house, I am always quite easily able to find a public (coin operated) telephone.
Sorry, but to me a phone is just a phone.
All the coin phones in my neck of the woods have been robbed, and then ripped from the booth. So don’t go to Georgia lookin for a pay phone. If you find one, then watch your back. You are about to be robbed.
Thanks for the advice; I’ll definitely do that.
Apparently, you missed the U.N. declaration that Internet access is a basic human right.
Hard to organize a “flash mob” without cell service.
Looks like the left in SF is getting tired of their own tactics being used against them.
” pagers worked well”
Pager went off, then you had to find a phone to find out what was happening. Vastly inferior. With the cell, I get instant information, and can give an immediate response. As the head operator of a water company, I am charged with the health and safety of over 1,000 people. Hardly a “straw man” issue!
It’s government shutting down private communications by private citizens facilitated by private businesses for the purpose of sociopolitical control.
THAT is censorship defined.
Public ownership of airwaves amounts to practical management of a limited resource. The point is to facilitate private communications; the content of those communications is legally irrelevant. Shutting down the communications system because of the POTENTIAL of a FEW objectionable calls is outright censorship.
PSA: Amateur Radio licenses are available cheap and no longer require Morse Code skills.
If I understand correctly, BART supplies and owns the equipment necessary for cell phones to operate on their system. If this is the case they sure have the right cut the service off. BART would be smart to just cut off the service and leave it off.
Ok...here we go again with this stuff. Please see this post from yesterday...before forming the ‘free speech’ mantra.
It is the same group that pulled this ‘stunt.’ This is not a protest of folks standing around and chanting. These people put everyone’s safety at risk.
There is a video link at post #21.
Actually their protest stunt from the last time never considered anyone’s safety.
Once one East Bay-bound train had inched into the station, some protesters boarded the train and began banging on the train's windows. After about 10 minutes, safety officers and police were able to close the train's doors and the train departed the station.
Shortly afterward, at about 5:20 p.m., the station's LED message boards displayed messages informing passengers that no trains would be stopping at Civic Center station.
By 5:30 p.m., Muni announced that its service had also been suspended at the station.
By 6 p.m., some of the group had moved to Powell Street station where they were chanting and screaming on the BART platform. At some point before then, the platform had temporarily been closed because of overcrowding related to the influx of passengers displaced from Civic Center station.
It appeared that all of the protesters boarded a Daly City-bound train at 6:17 p.m. Although some of them attempted to block the doors and prevent the train from leaving the station, the train departed a few minutes later.
Earlier Monday BART spokesman Linton Johnson said such a protest would be illegal.
"Disruptive protests like this planned on small platforms with fast moving trains and large crowds are against the law because they put ... riders, BART workers, journalists and protesters at serious risk of injury or death," he said.
All the landline courtesy phones in the station were working and the station was filled with officers. I think 911 was already on the scene for the most part.
And based on the last stunt protesters pulled...emergency services would not have been able to get to the person in need anyway...because the perps were blocking the platform, train, and train doors anyway.
is that Eric Holder’s leg? I wonder if he has a free cell phone?
I would add that unless that communication is of the "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater" kind.
I think most courts would find communication of a conspiracy to commit mob violence to be of that persuasion.
While it is true that the government cannot prohibit the exercise of free speech with the exception that I've mentioned, the government is also under no obligation to facilitate it. So, the city is under no obligation to ensure cell phones operate on their trains.
Not only that, but it would severely hamper first responders, and the general public, whose efforts are invaluable in such circumstances. So in order to impede 5 terrorists, you cripple the ability of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of citizens? This has nothing to do with 'free speech' in the constitutional sense. It is yet another example of statists in the government attempting to exercise powers it simply should not have. You'll find plenty of statists right here on this site to applaud the governments further interference in our lives. I, for one, will not.
Or, we could arrest the perps. You know, police enforcing law and all that. How come these days we attack the victims in the name of the perps?!
How come that is acceptable, is this the new America? Seems Orwellian to me this line of thinking.
Once again the “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” justification of censorship fails.
The better analogy is taping every audience member’s mouth shut as they enter the theater because of rumor of a conspiracy for a few people to shout “fire”.
Nobody’s mouth was taped shut. Everybody on that train could say anything they wanted.
I think a better analogy would be someone giving a speech inciting violence using a PA system in a public park and the city turning off the power to the park.
Nobody’s speech is prevented; the audience just got smaller. The city has no obligation to have power at a public park (and it might inconvenience some innocent people cooking hotdogs at the park, but nobody has a right not to be inconvenienced). If the speaker wanted to continue using his PA system, he should have brought a generator of his own.
Likewise, if you want to use your cell phone in areas where there is no coverage, get a more powerful cell phone.
Power output is strictly regulated. They could arrest you for using non-FC compliant equipment.
Citizens pay for cell service as a communications medium. Citizens expect to use said service where normally available to communicate. If government is allowed to disable that capability at will, then first amendment rights are being abridged.
I guarantee that walking up to a officer in the station and claiming you are a doctor would neither result in the cell block being lifted, or the officer allowing him to use his radio.
It’s pure orwellianism at its best.
Yah, life's a bitch isn't it? That doesn't mean you have a right to cell phone service.
A lot of people believe things are rights that aren't.
You can expect that the city will provide a service. They may have promised that service. That still doesn't make it a right.
You can take it up with your city councilman, maybe even vote for someone else at the next election, but government doesn't have to provide you with technology to communicate. That is your responsibility.
If you don't like not have cell service on the train, don't take the train.
Used to be BART didn’t have cell service available.
BART added it as a convenience.
It is a convenience, not a Right.
Lastly their anticipated actions have happened before by the same group. The platform area and trains are prohibited areas for safety reasons. Last time they blocked trains, train doors and even climbed on top of the trains. They need to get arrested.
The airwaves are not free now.
No State has ever wanted unlimited freedom of the press, and that includes the USA.
Somehow, I think the First Amendment and free speech have survived a brief shutdown of the cell phone service on some trains. The fact that days later we are arguing about that instead of the riot means that there was no riot, whether because of, in spite of, or regardless of, what happened to people’s cell phones.