On Thursday, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), a San Francisco-area transit agency, cut off cellphone service for that city’s Civic Center Station, citing public safety concerns over a rumored protest being planned for the station via social media. The agency has come under fire from the hacktivist group Anonymous, which has called BART’s actions “censorship” — the group reportedly attacked BART’s website on Sunday and organized another protest for Monday.
“In the Bay Area, we’ve seen people gagged, and once more, Anonymous will attempt to show those engaging in the censorship what it feels like to be silenced. #OpBART is an operation geared toward balance — toward learning. You do not censor people because they wish to speak out against the wrongs the wrongful things occurring around them,” read a press release from Anonymous. “People of San Francisco, join us Monday, August 15th at 5pm for a peaceful protest at Civic Center station to illustrate the solidarity with people we once knew and to stand up for your rights and those of your fellow citizens.”
“If anything, BART’s move to preempt the Aug. 11 demonstration has raised the stakes. The original protest was centered on the death of a homeless man, shot by BART police last month during an altercation at a subway station,” read an article in The Christian Science Monitor. “But Monday’s event has broadened to encompass what BART many critics call censorship, overreach, and tactics akin to those used by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as he tried to cling to power amid the Arab Spring uprising.”
The article posited whether BART will interrupt cellphone service again ahead of Monday’s proposed demonstration, although the original decision has been criticized by more than just hackers.
“We really don’t have the right to be this type of censor,” Lynette Sweet, who serves on BART’s board of directors, told The Associated Press Saturday, according to the article. “In my opinion, we’ve let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that’s not fair.”