The shadowy protest group known as Anonymous is planning a protest for rush hour Monday at the Civic Center BART station following a false start Thursday that prompted agency officials to controversially shut down underground cellphone service to prevent protesters from communicating about police locations.
On its website Saturday, the group said the newly scheduled action is again aimed at shootings by BART police officers, and that protesters will be wearing blood-stained shirts Monday “for remembrance to the blood that is on the hands of the BART police.” Police were out in force Thursday at the Civic Center station in preparation for a protest that never materialized, with one officer telling The San Francisco Examiner that it was an “epic fail.”
Anonymous is angry about the New Year’s Day 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant III at BART’s Fruitvale station in Oakland and the July 3 shooting of Charles Hill, a stumbling transient who attempted to throw a knife at BART officers at the Civic Center station. In response to Thursday’s cellphone service shutdown, the group is calling for people to disrupt BART’s communications through massive amounts of emailing, incessant phone calls and “black fax,” the practice of sending a fully inked page to FAX machines.
“I’m just shocked that they didn’t think about the implications of this. We really don’t have the right to be this type of censor,” Lynette Sweet, who serves on BART’s board of directors, told The Associated Press. “In my opinion, we’ve let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that’s not fair.”
BART spokesman Jim Allison said the transit agency hasn’t determined yet whether it will again pursue a cellphone service shutdown, which has drawn the ire of civil libertarians worldwide and protesters likening it to tactics undertaken by the Egyptian government during the recent populist revolution there.
Allison said the shutdown was undertaken by BART alone by way of disabling antenna that allow underground cell service from Balboa Park through the Transbay Tube. No cellphone companies were involved in the action, he said, although they were notified.
“No one jammed any signals,” said Allison, noting that the cell service was originally made possible only because BART made it so. “We just shut down the nodes.”
The post on the Anonymous website said Monday’s protest is designed to be peaceful.
“We request that you bring cameras to record further abuses of power by the police and to legitimize the protest,” the post says. “The media will certainly spin this in an attempt to make our actions appear to be violent or somehow harmful to the citizenry at large.”
A confrontational protest inside BART stations July 11 snarled service for hundreds of thousands of commuters by delaying 95 trains and canceling many others, Allison said. He said it was unacceptable and unsafe that individuals tried to physically block trains — especially by way of jumping on top of them — and that the train platforms are not a safe place for large demonstrations.
He said information on BART’s website will let people know about alternative modes of transportation if service is disrupted again. He said protesters are always welcome to demonstrate outside the fare gates and that he isn’t sure exactly what the police presence Monday will look like.
“We’re going to prepare to keep our passengers safe,” Allison said.