Protestors Interrupt San Francisco Bay Area Transit System (BART) Service

Transit agency had to temporarily close all four downtown stations during the evening commute, but not before cutting cell phone service to people protesting the police shooting of Charles Hill.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 16, 2011

The train system that connects San Francisco and its surrounding cities, BART, came to a halt at its four busiest stations during rush hour Monday as demonstrators protested a decision by agency officials last week to cut underground cell phone service in an effort to stifle an earlier police brutality protest.

Protesters have been scheduling occasional demonstrations since the July 3 shooting of Charles Hill by BART police officers. Reports say Hill approached police with a knife in his hands, but protesters say police officers used excessive force by fatally shooting him.

A video released by the BART administration in July shows BART officers exiting a train and 25 seconds later shooting Hill. He had a knife with a 4-inch blade and was approaching officers "menacingly," according to BART police Chief Kenton Rainey. The video shows a knife flying through the air towards one of the BART cops, but it missed him, reports the San Francisco Exminer.

Hill’s death came three weeks after former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle release from prison. Mehserle shot and killed unarmed train rider Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009.

But at last Thursday’s scheduled protest, BART officials shut down underground cell phone service to quell demonstrators from connecting with one another and prevent social network updates. The decision to turn shut down service sparked an even bigger protest Monday and now hackers are taking park in the actions. The San Francisco Chronicle describes the events:

BART closed all four downtown San Francisco stations – Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery and Embarcadero – soon after the protest began at 5 p.m. Officers in riot gear blocked entrances as many train riders fumed on the sidewalks and tried to figure out how to get home. All stations were reopened by 7:30 p.m.

BART’s action last Thursday – which ignited an international debate about technology, free speech and public safety – was an effort to diffuse an antipolice demonstration. But it spurred an even larger protest Monday that was organized online by a loose-knit band of computer hackers known as Anonymous.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports the group is calling for BART police to be disbanded. They quote an organizer at an earlier protest: "The question is, what is it going to take to make it stop?  We’re here today to take action to stop the BART police from killing. We don’t think the BART police should exist. There’s a mobilized angry public that isn’t going to take this shit anymore."

James Crowell, one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Charles Hill has been hired by the FBI and "plans to join them soon," his attorney told the SF Examiner recently.