BART Cell Phone Block Action – BART Issues Statement

At 12:59 PM, or about 7 minutes ago as of this writing, The Bay Area Rapid Transit System or “BART” issued an updated statement regarding its rationale for the controversial and apparently illegal cell phone blocking actions of last night, in an effort to stop a rumored, planned protest from “going viral.”

This is the new BART Statement:

Statement on temporary wireless service interruption in select BART stations on Aug. 11

Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police. A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.

Cell phone service was not interrupted outside BART stations. In addition, numerous BART Police officers and other BART personnel were present during the planned protest, and train intercoms and white courtesy telephones remained available for customers seeking assistance or reporting suspicious activity.

BART’s primary purpose is to provide, safe, secure, efficient, reliable, and clean transportation services. BART accommodates expressive activities that are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Liberty of Speech Clause of the California Constitution (expressive activity), and has made available certain areas of its property for expressive activity.

Paid areas of BART stations are reserved for ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART cars and trains, or for authorized BART personnel. No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.

Updated: August 12, 2011 12:59 pm

For reasons not totally clear, BART has taken on a ‘bunker’ mentality in this entire issue of the protesters, and those who question BART’s approach. It’s not, in this blogger’s view, appropriate for a proud, storied public agency like BART to take on this approach. BART’s job is to service the community, and not just take it to places around the Bay Area – and certainly not act as if it’s at war with it.

While the statement points to BART’s respect for the U.S. Constitution, it does not explain the legal aspects of the action.

This is a sad moment for BART. But just a moment. I hold out hope that the great organization finds a way to better deal with this issue.

Stay tuned.

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