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BART Questioned Over Cellphone Service Disruption

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BART train, station

A commuter looks on as a BART train pulls into a station in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

MarkSeelig20100908_KCBS_0152r Mark Seelig
Mark Seelig was born and raised in the Bay Area...having grown up...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Bay Area Rapid Transit officials are having to answer questions about tactics they used to quell Thursday’s planned demonstration at the Civic Center station in San Francisco.

Cellphone service was purposely disrupted for hours at several San Francisco stations after officials received intelligence that a large demonstration might take place, protesting the killing of a man on the Civic Center platform by BART police last month.

KCBS’ Mark Seelig Reports:

With public safety in mind, BART spokesman Jim Allison said in a statement that they decided to ask wireless carriers to temporarily disrupt service at the select stations.

BART Deputy Police Chief Benson Fairow said they also flooded stations with officers, hoping to stop any possible demonstrations from getting out of hand.

“Our fallback is always, what would I want if one of my loved ones was on the train or on the platform,” he said.

But the move to cut off cell service has been questioned by many people.

“I do think this does raise serious questions about whether or not First Amendment rights were violated,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid said he has never seen a situation like this before.

KCBS Technology Analyst Larry Magid:

“I understand why protesters would want to use the technology. I understand why BART would want to block it,” he said. “But it does bring up a lot of important issues.”

Allison said that BART police were present on the platforms of the select stations and white courtesy phones were available in case of an emergency.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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