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SF cell shutdown: Safety issue, or hint of Orwell?
August 15, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – 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?
The question resonated Saturday in San Francisco and beyond as details emerged of Bay Area Rapid Transit officials’ decision to cut off underground cellphone service for a few hours at several stations Thursday.
BART: 1st Amendment issues mount over cell shutdown
San Francisco Chronicle
August 15, 2011
In 1967, the California Supreme Court ruled that a city couldn’t prohibit nondisruptive political activity inside a railroad station.
That was before cellular phones were invented and before the first BART train rolled down the tracks. But it’s a precedent the transit agency may have to confront as it defends its decision to cut off cell service at the site of an expected trackside protest last Thursday, and its long-standing ban on “expressive activities” inside the fare gates.
BART says it might pull the plug on phone service again this afternoon to counter plans for a 5 p.m. demonstration at Civic Center Station in San Francisco, where a transit police officer fatally shot a knife-wielding man July 3.
The legality of such a decision may soon arrive in court.
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