Censorship Is Not a Public Safety Strategy

BART Shuts Off Cell Phone Service to Prevent Protest

By: Phil Ting

The news from BART keeps getting worse and worse. We learned this morning that not only did BART turn off cell signals in its Civic Center, Powell Street and 16th Street Stations on Thursday evening to try and prevent a protest – the decision was made at the very highest staff level of the agency.The news from BART keeps getting worse and worse. We learned this morning that not only did BART turn off cell signals in its Civic Center, Powell Street and 16th Street Stations on Thursday evening to try and prevent a protest – the decision was made at the very highest staff level of the agency.

Censorship is not, and should never be, a public safety strategy. We take BART leadership at their word about motives; they say they were worried about a crush of passengers and protesters on a dangerously crowded platform.

But the proper response to such a concern was to send BART police, and SFPD if necessary, to safeguard passengers and protesters. The decision to cut off cell service in order to prevent the protests violates fundamental principles of our democracy.

Violating Fundamental Principles of Democracy

At Reset San Francisco, our view is that the more voices heard, the more vigorous our democracy. Peaceful protest is a way people who are not being heard can be heard – and that feedback, as uncomfortable as it can make the politicians, is absolutely necessary to improve government.

Of course we must promote peaceful protest, not dangerous actions like rushing a crowded train platform. But we don’t enforce laws by violating our most fundamental principles of free speech. Censorship is not, and must not become, a public safety tool.

Across the world, pro-democracy protestors are using social media to spark peaceful protests. And across the world, governments that fear their own citizens are trying to block the Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and SMS texts that give everyday people a new power to be heard.

It is sad that in our own city, and from one of our own government agencies, censorship was used to block protest.

Make Your Voice Heard - Right Now

We need to make sure this never happens again. Please be heard on this important issue. Below are the names of all the BART Board of Directors and an email address to contact them. Indicate whether you are contacting the full Board or an individual Board Director. I know many of them are as appalled by this as we are. But please email them now – and give them the support and strength they need to stop the policy of censorship immediately.


BART Board of Directors

Gail Murray – District 1
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

Joel Keller – District 2
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

Bob Franklin – District 3
bobfranklinbart@aol.com

Robert Raburn – District 4
robertraburn@covad.net

John McPartland – District 5
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

Thomas Blalock – District 6
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

Lynette Sweet – District 7
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

James Fang – District 8
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

Tom Radulovich – District 9
boardofdirectors@bart.gov

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137