During one of the protests that shut down Bay Area Rapid Transit this month, an anonymous protester -- hiding behind a Guy Fawkes mask -- stood with a sign that read, "Mubarak Gaddafi BART."
Talk about delusions of oppression. Egyptians risked torture, imprisonment and their very lives to oust the heavy-handed Hosni Mubarak regime. Libyan rebels have been engaged in months of bloody combat to evict Moammar Gadhafi from power.
And BART? On Aug. 11, the transit system shut down cellphone service in downtown stations in order to disrupt protests organized by activists who planned to coordinate actions based on text messages disclosing police locations. In that BART stations are crowded, enclosed spaces with heavy equipment and an electrified third rail, there was a public safety argument behind the decision. And in that BART did not shut off service outside those stations, it's hard to describe the action as government censorship.
The cause for protest stems from two controversial BART shootings. The July 3 shooting of a reportedly armed Charles Hill is still under investigation. The 2009 Oakland shooting of an unarmed Oscar Grant led to the conviction of BART officer Johannes Mehserle for involuntary manslaughter.
Egypt? Libya? Hardly. Under Mubarak and Gadhafi, police had little to fear, while their critics risked prison time.
The list of demands by Anonymous -- the secretive organization behind recent BART protests -- reveals just how trivial the group's gripes are. To start, Anonymous demands that BART fire spokesman Linton Johnson. (Johnson, you see, has called the protesters "cyber-thugs.") Anonymous also wants BART to "publicly apologize" for shutting down cell service. Oh, and take away guns from BART police.
Critics could show up at BART board meetings to make their views known, as the public righteously did after Mehserle shot Grant in the back. But Anonymous apparently prefers to shut down BART service and interfere with employed adults on their way home from 9-to-5 jobs.
Seeing as this is happening in San Francisco, the protesters pretty much have gotten away with their little pranks. While many commuters are not amused at activists' disdain for (SET ITAL) their (END ITAL) rights, civil liberties groups have directed their fire at BART's one-night cellphone shutdown. Michael Risher, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, likened BART to "oppressive regimes."
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