Transit authorities at San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), fearing a demonstration over BART police’s fatal shooting of a 45-year-old man on July 3rd, blocked wireless signals at its train stations in an effort to impede planned protests by protestors.
BART officials are now facing criticism for their violation of First Amendment constitutional rights of passengers. Although BART officials claimed public safety as justification, blocking cell phone signals in an effort to hinder social media’s ability to coordinate demonstrations arguably forced ordinary citizens and passengers to suffer under the broad restraints for the anticipated actions of only a few citizens.
BART has responded, stating that the favors the transit authorities for their actions and citing a 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brandonberg v. Hayes, as justification to put public safety ahead of free speech in this situation.
The Federal Communications Commission stated that it would look into BART’s actions.
I think that necessity has been the argument used for every infringement of human rights since the birth of this country. This is the first time in America that a public agency has shut down public communications in order to disrupt communications. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable and should not be tolerated in a free society.