I hope that under Michael G.'s socialist system we will all get free,
unlimited cell phone access, with no governments shutting it off when they
don't like what people might be saying.


[image: Truthdig] <>

San Francisco Bay Area’s BART Pulls a Mubarak
on Aug 16, 2011

By Amy Goodman

What does the police killing of a homeless man in San Francisco have to do
with the Arab Spring uprisings from Tunisia to Syria? The attempt to
suppress the protests that followed. In our digitally networked world, the
ability to communicate is increasingly viewed as a basic right. Open
communication fuels revolutions—it can take down dictators. When governments
fear the power of their people, they repress, intimidate and try to silence
them, whether in Tahrir Square or downtown San Francisco.

Charles Blair Hill was shot and killed on the platform of the Bay Area Rapid
Transit (BART) system’s Civic Center platform on July 3, by BART police
officer James Crowell. BART police reportedly responded to calls about a man
drinking on the underground subway platform. According to police, Hill threw
a vodka bottle at the two officers and then threatened them with a knife, at
which point Crowell shot him. Hill was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Hill’s killing sparked immediate and vigorous protests against the BART
police, similar to those that followed the BART police killing of Oscar
Grant on New Year’s Day 2009. Grant was handcuffed, facedown on a subway
platform, and restrained by one officer when another shot and killed him
with a point-blank shot to the back. The execution was caught on at least
two cellphone videos. The shooter, BART officer Johannes Mehserle, served
just over seven months in jail for the killing.

On July 11, major protests shut down the Civic Center BART station. As
another planned protest neared on Aug. 11, BART officials took a measure
unprecedented in U.S. history: They shut down cellphone towers in the subway

“It’s the first known incident that we’ve heard of where the government has
shut down a cellphone network in order to prevent people from engaging in
political protest,” Catherine Crump of the ACLU told me. “Cellphone networks
are something we’ve all come to rely on. People use them for all sorts of
communication that have nothing to do with protest. And this is really a
sweeping and overbroad reaction by the police.”

The cellular-service shutdown, which was defended by BART authorities who
claimed it was done to protect public safety, immediately drew fire from
free-speech activists around the globe. On Twitter, those opposed to BART’s
censorship started using the hashtag #muBARTak to make the link to Egypt.

When the embattled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak shut down cell service
and the Internet, those in Tahrir Square innovated workarounds to get the
word out. An activist group called Telecomix, a volunteer organization that
supports free speech and an open Internet, organized 300 dial-up phone
accounts that allowed Egyptian activists and journalists to access the
Internet to post tweets, photos and videos of the revolution in progress.

“We were very active—Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria—trying to keep the
Internet running in these countries in the face of really almost
overwhelming efforts by governments to shut them down,” Telecomix activist
Peter Fein told me. “Telecomix believes that the best way to support free
speech and free communication is by building, by building tools that we can
use to provide ourselves with those rights, rather than relying on
governments to respect them.”

Expect hacktivist groups to support revolutions abroad, but also to assist
protest movements here at home. In retaliation for BART’s cellphone
shutdown, a decentralized hacker collective called Anonymous shut down
BART’s website. In a controversial move, Anonymous also released the
information of more than 2,000 BART passengers, to expose the shoddy
computer security standards maintained by BART.

The BART police say the FBI is investigating Anonymous’ attack. I
interviewed an Anonymous member who calls himself “Commander X” on the
“Democracy Now!” news hour. His voice disguised to protect his anonymity, he
told me over the phone: “We’re filled with indignation, when a little
organization like BART ... kills innocent people, two or three of them in
the last few years, and then has the nerve to also cut off the cellphone
service and act exactly like a dictator in the Mideast. How dare they do
this in the United States of America.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.*

*Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio
news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the
author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and
now a New York Times best-seller.*

© 2011 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is
no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith