BART Officials Warn Of Another Anonymous-Led Protest

“Please be advised that protesters may attempt to disrupt BART service during the afternoon commute period on Mon., Aug. 22 in downtown San Francisco BART stations,” BART warned on its website. “As always, BART’s primary mission is to ensure your safety and keep trains on-time. BART may need to close some stations temporarily or make other service adjustments on short notice.”

Earlier this month, BART raised the ire of free speech activists when it suspended cell phone service from four downtown stations in anticipation of a planned protest August 11. The planned protest was in response to a fatal shooting of a homeless man in July, whom BART police contended attempted to attack them with a knife.

The wireless shut-down piqued the interest of Anonymous, which defaced the transportation agency’s marketing Web site , and published e-mail addresses, passwords, home addresses and phone numbers of about 2,400 BART customers.

Another unknown hacker broke into the BART Web site on Wednesday and published the name and addresses of BART police officers, however Anonymous claimed that they were not affiliated with that particular hack.

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Anonymous spearheaded another scheduled demonstration Monday , protesting BART’s decision to thwart a peaceful protest, while comparing the agency’s actions to similar communication shut-downs in tyrannical, authoritarian regimes. Last Monday’s protest, which was attended by about a 100 demonstrators sources reported, disrupted train service during the heavily trafficked evening commute as agency officials temporarily closed several downtownm stations.

In an open letter to customers Saturday, BART officials defended their decision to suspend cell phone service as one that protected riders’ safety while maintaining that no First Amendment laws were violated.

“Out of an overriding concern for our passengers’ safety, BART made the decision to temporarily interrupt cell phone service on portions of its system. We are aware that the interruption had the effect of temporarily preventing cellular communications for many BART passengers and their families; and we regret any inconvenience caused by the interruption,” Bob Franklin, BART board of directors president wrote in an open letter on the agency’s site.

“BART’s temporary interruption of cell phone service was not intended to and did not affect any First Amendment rights of any person to protest in a lawful manner in areas at BART stations that are open for expressive activity," Franklin wrote. "The interruption did prevent the planned coordination of illegal activity on the BART platforms, and the resulting threat to public safety.”

Anonymous maintained that it would continue to protest until BART administrators issued an official apology for its actions.

However, BART officials are holding firm to their stance, contending that they were acting in the interest of public safety, claiming that a previous July 11 protest jeopardized riders' safety and endangered lives.

“During that protest, one person climbed on top of a train and many other individuals blocked train doorways and held train doors open. During the course of the event, which occurred during the peak of rush hour, individuals used BART trains to move between stations, and caused the shutdown or partial shutdown of other stations,” Franklin said in the BART letter. “These actions violated the law by creating a serious threat to the safe operation of the BART system, disrupting the service of 96 BART trains (approximately two-thirds of the trains operating during the rush hour), causing the closing of stations, and putting at risk the safety of thousands of passengers and BART employees.”