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ACLU won't challenge BART for wireless shutdown

August 16, 2011 12:38:03 AM PDT
The American Civil Liberties Union says it probably won't file a lawsuit against San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system for blocking wireless phone signals.

The ACLU met with BART's police chief late Monday. After the meeting, ACLU attorney Michael Risher said the organization had no plans to file a lawsuit, but he remained disappointed that he didn't extract a pledge from BART to refrain from similar tactics in the future.

BART blocked the signals last Thursday to disrupt a planned protest against police brutality. That move led to a protest on Monday night that forced the closure of several BART stations during rush hour.

From Civic Center, the protesters were joined by more demonstrators and marched down San Francisco's Market Street and attempted to enter to more stations.

Police in riot gear closed several stations citing safety concerns, leaving commuters to find other ways to get home.

"Once the platform becomes unsafe, we can't jeopardize the safety of patrons and employees," BART Deputy Police Chief Dan Hartwig said.

The shutdown of wireless towers in stations near the protest Thursday raised questions about the role that social networks play in helping people, from Egypt to London, organize online. In the U.S., with its history of free speech, critics are saying BART's move was unconstitutional.

BART's actions prompted a Federal Communications Commission investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.