San Francisco officials didn't block cellphone signals this time around during a BART protest, but they did halt transit service at all four downtown stations. Hundreds of commuters were forced to the street to find other ways to get home during rush hour. Some 50 protesters who gathered on the platform of the downtown Civic Center station were quickly rousted by riot cops, who cleared the entire facility. Protesters then marched to nearby stations, which were also shut for about two hours, reports AP. "Once the platform becomes unsafe, we can't jeopardize the safety of patrons and employees," said a BART spokesman.
Officials dodged a possible First Amendment challenge by not repeating last week's controversial decision to shut down wireless towers in targeted stations before a planned protest. The protest never materialized, and the move was lashed by the ACLU and triggered an investigation by the FCC. But shutting stations proved nearly as unpopular. "This is an outrage. We just want to get home," one rider told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't see why they should be shutting down the stations. If they have an issue with BART, they should go to BART headquarters." But a protester yelled: "What's a bigger inconvenience, missing your train or getting shot by a BART cop?" Demonstrators were protesting the shooting death of a knife-wielding man by transit cops last month.