BART officials admitted last Friday that they shut off wireless communications for some stations in downtown San Francisco to keep a planned protest from happening. The protests were related to the over the fatal shooting of Charles Hill, a homeless man, by officers on July 11 . BART’s justification was that July protests against BART police shootings had turned violent and they were therefore entitled to take the step of jamming cell phone service to ensure public safety.
You don’t have to be a Constitutional Law guru to know that when the government attempts to silence the speech of protesters on the assumption their words “may” incite violence without having any idea what they are going to say there are 1st Amendment issues. What’s more, the government decided to silence not only those people but everyone who has anything to say. It’s called prior restraint. In this country, prior restraint is deemed one of the “the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights,” Government attempts to engage in prior restraints of protest related “speech” have been routinely struck down throughout history ranging from the Nazis’ attempt to march in the predominantly Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois, to the Pentagon Papers.
BART officials should be ashamed of themselves and the individual(s) who made the ingorant decision to engage in one of the most egregious stifling of 1st Amendment rights in recent history should be fired.