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In the Freest Country on Earth: City Blocks Cellphones to Hinder Protest

August 13
18:28 2011
Officers of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) blocked cellphone reception in San Francisco’s train stations to prevent a protest. The demonstrators were going to voice their concern over BART police’s July 3 shooting of Charles Blair Hill. Police claimed he came at them with a knife.San Francisco, once known for its freedom-loving, protesting ways has been slighted by BART officials and has had one of its most important constitutional rights taken away: the freedom to peaceably assemble.

From the Huffington Post:

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The tactic drew comparisons to those used by the former president of Egypt to squelch protests demanding an end to his authoritarian rule. Authorities there cut Internet and cellphone services in the country for days earlier this year.
“BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said on its website.
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the tactic, saying on its blog that it was the “wrong response to political protests.”
BART officials were confident the cellphone disruptions were legal. They said in a statement that it’s illegal to demonstrate on the platform or aboard the trains, and that it has set aside special areas for demonstrations.
The demonstration planned Thursday failed to develop. “We had a commute that was safe and without disruption,” said BART spokesman Jim Allison.

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