BART cellphone shutdown won't lead to ACLU suit

BART police officers push back a protester at the Civic Center station in San Francisco, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011. Cellphone service was operating as protesters gathered at a San Francisco subway station during rush-hour several days after transit officials shut wireless service to head off another demonstration.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
BART cellphone cutoff won't lead to ACLU suit
BART police officers push back a protester at the Civic Center station Monday
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

(CBS/AP/KPIX) - The ACLU said Monday that they will not be filing suit against the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency, after BART cut off wireless and cellular service at stations in an effort to stifle a protest last week.

After the ACLU met with BART's police chief yesterday, ACLU attorney Michael Risher said there were no plans to file a lawsuit, but he said he was disappointed that BART didn't promise not to use similar tactics in the future. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, too, said it was unlikely to file a lawsuit over the disabling of wireless reception for three hours.

But the shutdown of wireless towers in stations near the protest Thursday raised questions about the role that social networks play in helping people, from Egypt to London, organize online. In the U.S., with its history of free speech, critics are saying BART's move was unconstitutional.

The planned protest last Thursday was in response to the fatal shooting of Charles Hill by BART police in the Civic Center station on July 3. On July 11, protesters gathered at the station and prevented trains from leaving by blocking the train doors, with one even climbing on top of a train, reports CBS station KPIX.

Cellphone service was operating Monday night as an estimated 50 protesters gathered on the Civic Center Station platform chanting "no justice, no peace" shortly after 5 p.m. Thirty minutes later, police in riot gear and wielding batons closed the station and cleared the platform after protesters briefly delayed an east-bound train from departing.

BART's actions have prompted a Federal Communications Commission investigation and an attack on the agency's website by Anonymous, which resulted in personal information of more than 2,000 passengers being posted online.

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