Freedom of Expression Fallacy: BART Right to Suspend Cell Service to Avert Dangerous Protest

“It was a recipe for disaster… The fact that they started to
conspire to commit illegal actions on the station platform was our concern. I asked myself: If my wife, mother or daughter was on that platform, would I want them to be in that situation?”

-BART Deputy Police Chief Benson Fairow, as quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 2011.

As I discussed last month, I have little sympathy for protestors who disrupt mass transit during rush hour. I support the right of individuals to express their views in front of City Hall or other venues where they do not interfere with the rights of other citizens. Climbing on top of subway trains during the evening commute, and forcing the shutdown of the country’s fifth-busiest rapid transit system is not an appropriate way to make one’s point.

When BART officials learned that the “No Justice, No BART” group was planning to again disrupt operations last Thursday by “[using] mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police,” they decided to switch off the underground cell phone network BART owns and controls.

Naturally, liberals are crying foul, threatening a lawsuit, and pressuring the Federal Communications Commission to investigate.

This outrage would be perfectly understandable if BART officials had electronically jammed another service provider’s cell network. But, they did not. They did not even “ask  cell phone providers to shut down towers near stations.” It turns out that “BART owns and controls  the wireless network strung through its subways, and BART police ordered it  switched off.”

That’s right, protestors are demanding that BART provide a service at its own expense that enables malcontents to organize protests that deny service to customers. The end result is that BART suffers financially.

Someone please explain to me how this logic makes any discernible sense?

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Business, California, Crime, Finance and Economics, Media, Policy, Politics, Terrorism and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Freedom of Expression Fallacy: BART Right to Suspend Cell Service to Avert Dangerous Protest

  1. pino says:

    Someone please explain to me how this logic makes any discernible sense?

    They aren’t paying their fair share.

    The rich capital “O” Ought provide free services for the malcontent and incompetent. Can’t figure out how to turn a beach of sand into silicon? No problem, some really smart guy will risk everything for the shot of doing it for you.

    Can figure out how to turn a bunch of silicon into transistors? Again, no problem. Sit back and enjoy your negative income tax while more really smart people risk every thing to build ’em for you.


  2. dave says:

    Well BART is a public service, paid for with tax dollars. This is quelling freedom of expression. Had this happened on a private train or domain that would be fine, but this was basically a government entity putting the quash on free speech.

    • The expectation is that tax payers will subsidize transportation, not provide free wireless. Wireless service is an added luxury. If providing it increases hooliganism, BART has every right to shut it off.

      Government guarantees the right to free speech, not total wireless access anywhere, any time. Did BART violate free speech before it offered free wireless? Of course not.

      Government is not required to provide every citizen a megaphone, it just may not interfere with what each citizen has to say without just cause.

      Furthermore, there are limits on free speech. Public safety sometimes trumps it. For instance, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is a clear example. These protests unnecessarily harm public safety by crowding the BART system and creating an unsafe situation by climbing on the trains at its most vulnerable hours.

  3. Xerik says:

    I believe what they did was right and the lesser of two evils. If the protests had stalled the trains wouldn’t thatl also be a cause where I could potentially lose my job. Even worse is if someone got hurt because of the protesters.

    But I’ve read on so many forums that the freedom of speech was taken… But IMO that isn’t true. Safety without the cellphone use was still there as emergency phones and personnel would also be present. The use of repeaters in a tunnel whether or not put in by the city is a luxury.

  4. Crimson Wife says:

    I wish I could claim credit for the brilliance of the following comment, because I’m 100% in agreement with it:

    “Wait – how come you can’t protest without mobile phones? MLK managed to pull it off but then, he had a real cause so maybe that helped.” (source is here. )

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