The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it will investigate San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit because of its decision to interrupt cellphone service on Aug. 11 before a protest planned for that day. The interruption lasted three hours.

BART officials stand by their decision, saying it was taken to “ensure the safety of everyone on the platform” in anticipation of an organized protest on BART trains and platforms against the shootings of two men by BART police.

That justification does not satisfy free-speech and civil rights groups, which remain angry. So angry, in fact, that on Monday night supporters of the hacking group Anonymous and earlier protesters against alleged BART police brutality came out in droves, forcing police to shut down several underground BART stations. –BF

BART insisted that cell phone service was not disrupted outside its stations, and pointed out that intercoms and courtesy phones were still operational in areas where service was blocked.

“Paid areas of BART stations are reserved for ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART cars and trains, or for authorized BART personnel,” BART said. “No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), however, said “BART is the first known government agency in the United States to block cell service in order to disrupt a political protest.”

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