BART Turns Off Mobile Phone Service At Station Because It Doesn't Want Protestors To Communicate

from the really-now? dept

With all the talk in the UK from politicians about shutting down mobile messaging services, it's worth pointing out that it apparently takes much less to shut down mobile service in the US at times. Jacob Appelbaum points out that BART -- the Bay Area Rapid Transit train system here in the California Bay Area -- apparently shut down all cell service at a station under the (false, as it turns out) belief that protesters were going to show up there:
As an added precaution, the agency shut off cellphone service on the station's platform. While Alkire said the tactic was an unusual measure, he said it was "a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose" given that the agency was expecting a potentially volatile situation.
That's really quite incredible, and I'm at a loss to see how that could be allowed. Because BART feared people protesting it literally shut down mobile phone service at its station? Since this particular station is underground, it has special equipment as regular cell towers don't reach the station. However, that shouldn't give BART officials the right to just turn off the service because they're unhappy that people might protest.

Filed Under: bart, free speech, mobile phones, protests, wireless
Companies: bart


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2011 @ 6:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Having the right to assemble and protest doesn't mean . . .

    The crux of a First Amendment violation is if the action is content neutral.


    Not in a non-public forum.

    Perry Ed Assn v Perry Local Educators' Assn (Perry):

    Public property which is not by tradition or designation a forum for public communication is governed by different standards. We have recognized that the "First Amendment does not guarantee access to property simply because it is owned or controlled by the government." In addition to time, place, and manner regulations, the State may reserve the forum for its intended purposes, communicative or otherwise, as long as the regulation on speech is reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speaker's view. As we have stated on several occasions, “[t]he State, no less than a private owner of property, has power to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.”

     . . . .

    Implicit in the concept of the nonpublic forum is the right to make distinctions in access on the basis of subject matter and speaker identity. These distinctions may be impermissible in a public forum but are inherent and inescapable in the process of limiting a nonpublic forum to activities compatible with the intended purpose of the property.The touchstone for evaluating these distinctions is whether they are reasonable in light of the purpose which the forum at issue serves.


    (Citations and internal quotes removed.)

    The headnote summarizes this as, “With respect to public property that is not by tradition or government designation a forum for public communication, a State may reserve the use of the property for its intended purposes, communicative or otherwise, as long as a regulation on speech is reasonable and not an effort to suppress expression merely because public officials oppose the speaker's view.”

    In other words, in a non-public forum, viewpoint discrimination is still prohibited, but content-based regulation is subject to merely rational-basis review.

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