Via IndyBay, a first look at a draft version of BART’s cell phone shut-down policy:
Amongst the dozens of riot gear-clad San Francisco and BART police officers that have packed Downtown San Francisco streets during the OpBART protests for the past three Mondays, you may have spotted some officers wearing khaki slacks and bulletproof vests, a far cry from the heavy duty helmets and body armor worn by officers from other agencies.
Those lightly-clad officers were part of a Department of Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) unit, an anti-terror unit charged with protecting transportation infrastructure from potential acts of terrorism. VIPR units are run by the Transportation Security Administration. According to the TSA’s website, VIPR teams are terrorism deterrents that “a random, announced, high-visibility surge into a transit agency, in addition to enhancing agency resources during special events.” VIPR teams have been deployed more than 50 times since the program began in 2005, and regularly patrol New York’s Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuter systems. Continue reading
By Casey Miner
NOTE: Casey Miner will be on KALW (91.7fm) at 5pm PST with more on BART and the First Amendment.
In the wake of multiple protests that have interrupted train service and forced station closures, BART’s board of directors met Wednesday to discuss when, if at all, the agency will disable cell phone service on its platforms. BART cut service earlier this month in an attempt to head off what it says was planned as a violent protest of July’s BART police shooting. Though officials have stood by their decision, the agency has not repeated the tactic since.
The service shutdown caught the attention of groups ranging from the FCC, which is still looking into the matter, to the ACLU, which has sent several letters to BART offering policy recommendations. ACLU attorney Michael Risher, who was present at the meeting, recommended that BART adopt a policy allowing cell shutdowns only in extreme circumstances, such as the imminent detonation of a bomb. Under the Constitution, he said, BART platforms are considered a designated public forum, and as a government agency BART must abide by that definition.
As promised, the hacktivist group Anonymous returned to Civic Center yesterday for a second rush-hour protest against officer-involved shootings by BART police and the transit agency’s decision to cut cellphone service in Downtown San Francisco stations on August 11th. Last Monday, approximately 200 demonstrators forced BART to close the Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic Center Stations for two hours, snarling the evening commute.
Though only Powell and Civic Center stations were shuttered during yesterday’s action, police took a distinctly sterner tone with the protests, arresting four people on the platform of the Civic Center station before declaring an unlawful assembly and forcing roughly 40 protesters and journalists up to the street. The San Francisco Bay Guardian posted video of BART police arresting a woman on the platform of the Civic Center Station. Three more people were arrested in the station for chanting slogans critical of BART and holding a banner.
BART Deputy Police Chief Dan Hartwig said the arrests were made over concerns for public safety and the ability of people to move freely through BART stations.
“That platform is not designed for anything besides waiting for public transportation,” Hartwig said.”We’ve gone out of our way to be accommodating, probably flexible to a fault. It’s our responsibility to maintain a safe environment within this system. We can’t afford to have this be a weekly occurrence.”
Four downtown BART transit stations were closed during rush hour yesterday by a protest decrying the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority’s decision to shut down cellphone service last Thursday to avert a potential protest over the July 3rd fatal shooting of Charles Hill by rookie BART Police Officer James Crowell. Dozens of BART and San Francisco Police officers were deployed in riot gear and on motorcycles to keep tabs on the protest, but save from a few baton shoves and a great deal of invective, yesterday’s protest was free of violence.
The protest was called by Anonymous, a loose-knit, transnational hacker collective responsible which has aligned itself with pro-democracy demonstrators in the Middle East and the controversial whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. Anonymous labeled Monday’s actions #OpBART, sparking a flurry of traffic on the social networking website Twitter.