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BART Hates Free Speech, Anonymous #OpBART Protest, Civic Center station, 8/22/11: video
by dave id
Tuesday Aug 23rd, 2011 3:17 AM
In justification of BART's shutdown of mobile phone service on August 11th, the agency began to disingenuously claim that demonstrations against BART's police brutality were a threat to passenger safety, even though no one has ever been hurt during a BART protest. On August 22nd, at the second demonstration called by Anonymous, BART took this safety rationale to new heights, not only claiming that holding a banner was safety concern but additionally that even raising one's voice was an arrestable threat to safety. Apparently, any criticism of the agency within the BART system is now a safety issue, or at least BART believes that legal rationale relieves them of all obligations toward respecting Constitutionally-protected free speech.
In the video below, BART officer J. Conneely from the BART police department's "Tactical Team" steps up to three demonstrators holding a blue banner, starts to grab it, and tells them that they are subject to arrest for displaying the banner. "You are free to express yourself upstairs. It's a safety issue. You are not allowed to do that down here," he says. Conneely refuses to explain how the banner is a safety issue.

Within another couple of minutes, Conneely tells a demonstrator who is discussing the BART police killing of Charles Hill on July 3rd that she has to "keep [her] voice down… for safety reasons," and that by speaking loudly she is subject to arrest. Picking up on this strange BART police declaration, another protester announces that "if we raise our voices, we will be arrested." That demonstrator then leads a chant of "No justice, no peace, disband the BART police," and is promptly surrounded by BART riot police who proceed to physically remove him from the station for arrest. (Reports are that those arrested within Civic Center station have been charged with trespassing. Go figure.)

It is clear that BART's policy against "expression" within stations is not content-neutral. Four people were arrested in the Civic Center station on August 22nd for speaking out against the BART police, but a passenger who was yelling at protesters was not arrested nor even confronted by BART police, allowed to rant at length. And somehow a political banner has been determined by the agency to be a safety issue, yet BART stations are filled with commercial advertisements, across the walls and sometimes even on station floors and stairs.

BART refuses to hold its police accountable when they beat or kill passengers, and now the agency appears to be at wits end on how to deal with Bay Area community members that won't shut up about it. Being a public transportation system, BART simply cannot stop in-station protests, short of declaring itself an independent country and implementing martial law. And so the agency is grasping at straws, setting new Constitutionally-dubious precedents in its attempts to stifle free speech, from pulling the plug on mobile phone antennas to declaring that raising one's voice on a platform (if the speech is critical of BART) is an arrestable offense. The problem with BART's new approach is that as it futilely tries to ward off public criticism of its violent and unaccountable police force, and the managers and executives that look the other way or help to cover it up, BART has brought upon itself a wave of new critics, from civil libertarians to Anonymous, people who have never protested BART before yet are more than willing to join in the fight for civil rights in the battle against BART.

BART arrests protesters for speaking out

For more information:
(video 4:45)
Photo taken from

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by kadiddlehopper
Tuesday Aug 23rd, 2011 4:42 PM
you knew they had a plan to ''step it up'', meaning they plan to escalate the criminality of ''protest''. raise your voice you arrested. thats what happened to me! i was arrested for raising my voice over the horror of being assaulted by a white man because i didnt agree with his racial slurs!!!!! I WAS ARRESTED because they said i was ''yelling''. yeah ,raised my voice because i feared for my health! the guy started telling mke to go back to ''africa''. i was just walking down the street!!! thats how they operate. they will make ANYTHINg ''illegal''. DONT STOP UNTIL EVERY FQASCIST IS GONE!!!!!!
by Kouyate
Wednesday Aug 24th, 2011 10:19 AM
I'm all for protesting at Bart stations, but it seems foolish to me to pursue this as a free speech issue. I can easily imagine the arguments for not having banners stretched across areas where people are walking, BART stations are often tunnels or bridges with little room to move - imagine if people had to evacuate quickly? (I was once on a platform when a train came in billowing smoke-I needed to get outta there in a hurry.) The same goes for having a whole bunch of people in the station who aren't getting on or off trains. Of course the idea of the protest is to stop business as usual, but has everyone really thought that concept through? WHOSE business? The business of people trying to get home from work? Some protestors might wonder why BART riders didn't seem too receptive to joining them. I don't.

If we wanna raise consciousness on this issue lets stop chasing the media with spectacular protests and get on trains and flyer and talk to people, find out what others are thinking, etc. Or lets get enough people together to shut down Bart HQ, or at least do a platform protest in the morning when its on the bosses' time!

The cell phone issue is also a rotten tree to bark at - do we think we can count on the federally-regulated mass communications industry to assist us in planning and carrying out actions? We'd be better off figuring out ways to not become dependent on that shit. Look how easily they shut down communications in Egypt, and how Blackberry was ready to do the same thing during the recent London riots.