Anonymous Protests BART Cell Service Shut Down: opBART Begins


In reaction to BART’s shutdown of cell phone service Thursday, Anonymous has taken to the Internet and begun #opBART and #opMuBARTek (a reference to the Egyptian president’s shutting down that country’s Internet service during protests) a  multi-pronged series of actions designed to protest the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s  stifling of  free speech. There will be a peaceful Anon-organized protest Monday at BART Civic Center Station at 5pm. Attendees are requested to wear either a red shirt or clothes with fake blood stains, and to bring video cameras.

BART has issued a statement which said, in part:

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. 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.

No telling what BART would do if a carload of passengers suddenly put on Anon masks once riding.

Anonymous does not appear to be involved in the planning of last Thursday’s aborted protest over the Transit Police’s fatal shooting of a man in July of this year, and activated only when the cellphone service was shut off.  BART’s cellphone service shutdown was decried by the ACLU, State Senator Leland Yee and the Electronic Freedom Foundation-Austin, amongst others.

On Sunday, was defaced with Anonymous’ iconic Guy Fawks (Epic Fail Guy) mask. BART had issued a press statement on Sunday morning saying that there could be disruptions to their web service.

In another action, some Anonymous person/s hacked into the BART database and dumped data, including users’ emails and passwords onto the BART website.  Some people have tweeted their objection to that action, one writing:

I dont support the leak. I don’t support “pickles” as a password either.

Good point. No credit card data was involved in the leak; however, it is always a good idea to use a different password for different sites (hence possibly the reason one person’s password was admin123). On their Twitter feed #opBART, Anonymous claims to have

emailed all the people on the BART mailing list (over 120k) on how to join tomorrows protest and why

Because user information was accessed and posted, the FBI has been called in according to the San Francisco Examiner, and there is speculation that cellphone service may be blocked again for the protest. The National Lawyers Guild will have their hotline in place for the protest, and demonstrators are advised to write down the phone number on their arms and/or memorize it in case of arrest or injury.

And while they were at it, Anonymous also defaced the California Avoid website, with messages including

Free Topiary

a reference to the jailing of an alleged Anon in England over various acts of  hacktivism.

With regards to upswings in hacking activities and the UK riots, Anonymous issued this statement:

We found thousands of messages that claim to be Anonymous, attributing responsibility for things we would never do and now it happens with the riots. Be alert to this. Do not allow Internet Censorship! An article in PC magazine shows that the corporate media is starting to ask the same question that the alternative media has been asking. Are the recent string of hacker attacks a false flag operations meant to drum up support to push through Internet censorship laws that the public would otherwise protest? Are the recent riots a false flag operations meant to drum up support to push through Internet censorship laws that the public would otherwise protest?

As BART’s website infrastructure is not at all connected to the computer systems that run the trains themselves, the web attacks did not result in any service delays. Additionally, there was no disruption to BART’s schedule and information site,

27 Responses to "Anonymous Protests BART Cell Service Shut Down: opBART Begins"
Lisa Derrick | Sunday August 14, 2011 09:26 pm 1

From the Irish Times:

Technologies are neither good nor bad. Technologies don’t have political opinions, they don’t take sides, they don’t care whether a user plans to stage a government protest or loot a flatscreen TV from Currys – but they can be used for either intention.

bluewombat | Monday August 15, 2011 06:12 am 2

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


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

alan1tx | Monday August 15, 2011 06:15 am 3

Congress shall make no law…

JerryB | Monday August 15, 2011 06:34 am 4

Anon should really put the screws to BART but I don’t think they should have released Customer info.

bgrothus | Monday August 15, 2011 06:41 am 5

Wow. We have met the enemy and it is not Anonymous.

mzchief | Monday August 15, 2011 06:43 am 6


Lisa Derrick | Monday August 15, 2011 06:51 am 7
In response to JerryB @ 4

Jerry, a dox drop is standard for Anon, it is done usually to show it can be done, and thus that information is not secure, as well as being a trophy. Anon emailed everyone whose email they got (they claim 120K names, while BART says 2,400)and encouraged them to join in the protest.

Cracking BART’s promotional site is a serious reminder that when on marketing and free sites we should use a password very different than the one used for Facebook or any financial transactions.

Additionally BART should never have stored those passwords in plaintext. If Anon can do it, who else could, or has in the past?

Spotts1701 | Monday August 15, 2011 07:20 am 8
In response to bluewombat @ 2

“[G]overnment may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech, provided the restrictions ‘are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.” – Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (1989) (quoting Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984)).

The BART regulation, on-face, meets all three prongs – it is content-neutral, narrowly tailored to meet a significant government interest (public safety on public transportation), and leaves open alternative channels for communication (such as protesting outside the paid areas).

This dog don’t hunt. Find another.

trademarkdave | Monday August 15, 2011 08:20 am 9
In response to Spotts1701 @ 8


Spotts1701 | Monday August 15, 2011 08:40 am 10
In response to trademarkdave @ 9

Beg pardon? That’s your response?

BART is fully within the constitution to ban protests in areas so long as those areas have never been open to public protest and they don’t “pick and choose” which protests to allow and which to deny. A quarter-century of Supreme Court decisions bulwarks that position.

So please, provide more than a one-word response. I’m breathless with anticipation.

yellowsnapdragon | Monday August 15, 2011 08:52 am 11

Seriously, where’s the outrage? BART turned cell service off to prevent protest over the killing of a homeless man by BART security. This is absolutely unacceptable. Period.

Lisa Derrick | Monday August 15, 2011 09:05 am 12

The July shooting is the second time BART security has killed someone in two years!

JohnJ | Monday August 15, 2011 09:09 am 13

Bart in doing so also turned off emergency cell phone. Is it really justified to leave people without emergency communications just to save themselves from embarrassment?

ackack | Monday August 15, 2011 09:14 am 14

My wife is one of those who was hacked, as she is a BART pass member/user.

My take? Fuck BART, no matter the laws you cite, spotts. I come down on the side of the public’s right to assemble and to speak.

It is cyber civil disobedience, poking a thumb in the eye of the guvmint. I’m sure any court, especially today’s Supreme Court would side with the previous decision, you know, because of John Roberts’ respect for precedence and all(/s).

HOWEVER, what is best for society and rights?

Allowing the guvmint to shut down cel service at will, to hamper the ability of the public to assemble and protest an overzealous police reaction that resulted in the death a member of the public?

Or, honestly investigating said actions by the police?

I just bought my V mask, if that helps to more clearly circumscribe my position.

Lisa Derrick | Monday August 15, 2011 09:22 am 15

“I’m just shocked that they didn’t think about the implications of this. We really don’t have the right to be this type of censor,” Lynette Sweet, who serves on BART’s board of directors, told The Associated Press. “In my opinion, we’ve let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that’s not fair.”

More from San Francisco Examiner

BART spokesman Jim Allison said the transit agency hasn’t determined yet whether it will again pursue a cellphone service shutdown, which has drawn the ire of civil libertarians worldwide and protesters likening it to tactics undertaken by the Egyptian government during the recent populist revolution there.

bluewombat | Monday August 15, 2011 09:35 am 16
In response to Spotts1701 @ 8

I see nothing reasonable about prohibiting citizens from protesting the apparent murder of one of their number by BART cops (as opposed to bartcop, an estimable and worthy website).

To take up your points in the order you raise them:

1. The ban is not content-neutral; it is designed to stifle specific criticism of BART.

2. The ban is not narrowly tailored to meet a significant government interest, unless suppressing criticism of BART is regarded as a significant government interest. There has been no call for violence, so there is no issue of public safety.

3. While alternate channels of protest are available, this does not hold water by itself as a grounds for banning a protest at the BART station. This is the same philosophy that has given rise to “free speech zones,” under which people can’t protest at (or sometimes, even near) the location where they wish to protest. It is unpersuasive and Constitutionally unsound. The protest will proceed.

Sorry — the dog hunts just fine :)

Spotts1701 | Monday August 15, 2011 09:47 am 17
In response to bluewombat @ 16

I support the First Amendment, but not an absolute First Amendment where you may protest wherever you want whenever you want.

I also agree that shutting down cell service is beyond the pale and should not be permitted as there are legitimate purposes that are also stopped, and thus the action is overbroad:

As to the rest:

1. How do you know that the regulation is content-based? Have there ever been any other protests of any kind? If you can’t show that past protests have been permitted or denied, then you must rely on the plain language of the regulation. And the plain regulation is neutral.

2. No issue of public safety? Because people protesting (peacefully or not) on platforms where trains are passing through at a fair rate of speed (without boarding them) don’t constitute a safety hazard?

3. You can protest OUTSIDE the station. You can protest INSIDE the station as long as you aren’t past the point where tickets are taken. So your argument is specious at best and completely idiotic at worst.

Sorry, you’re wrong. But go ahead, do it and see how well your arguments hold up in a court of law.

DavidH | Monday August 15, 2011 09:47 am 18

If Bart is not providing space for protests, it should. That said, when you’re trying to enter or exit BART or any other mass transit, your access must be guaranteed. It is public transportation after all and should be accessible to all. All the time.

bluewombat | Monday August 15, 2011 10:38 am 19
In response to Spotts1701 @ 17

The issue of public safety is a red herring. If you had read the BART statement carefully, you would have seen that it says “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 ban includes platform areas, but is not limited to them. Similarly, the ban includes cars and trains. There is no safety issue whatsoever if people on a BART car, whether moving or stationary, choose to protest. To a non-protestor, this can be irritating, but there’s no safety risk.

So your statement “You can protest OUTSIDE the station. You can protest INSIDE the station as long as you aren’t past the point where tickets are taken” is not accurate. I won’t use language like “idiotic” to describe your argument, as I feel it’s important to disagree without being disagreeable.

Spotts1701 | Monday August 15, 2011 10:50 am 20
In response to bluewombat @ 19

I am being disagreeable because people are using the First Amendment like it’s a cudgel when it’s not.

I get enough of that from the people on the right who think that when they get their comments punted it’s violating their rights.

MailersGhost | Monday August 15, 2011 11:36 am 21

Spotts, thank you for playing devil’s advocate. We need to sharpen our arguments by these exchanges.
That said–see y’all at 5, Civic Center BART.

mzchief | Monday August 15, 2011 11:56 am 22
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 7

A majority of people do not know how to use IT properly so they are exposed to ID, personal data, financial data and material theft and the industries don’t have a vested interest in protecting the users as evidenced by what has been going on in the US since at least the time the Sprint PCS network was constructed (FYI there was a channel at MCI to which the US government supposedly did not have access to but that changed by the time British Telecomm specified that MCI either reduce operational cost by 30-35% or the purchase was off. British Telecomm did not buy MCI nevertheless and MCI became WorldCom instead). BART users could have already been hacked by whoever really runs Murdoch’s empire (and anyone else for that matter). Now that BART has gone and disrupted operations at the carrier level, if there were trustworthy investigators from the Executive Branch (right now the public can’t say that) it would be interesting to do the forensics at the crime scene but I predict all involved will make sure that doesn’t happen.

yellowsnapdragon | Monday August 15, 2011 12:34 pm 23
In response to DavidH @ 18

Yes, BART should be accessible to Oscar Grant, too. But *he* can’t use BART because he was shot and killed by security. Just sayin’

Lisa Derrick | Monday August 15, 2011 01:54 pm 24

The FCC Officially Scrutinizing BART Cell Phone Block, As Tonight’s Protest Looms

The Federal Communications Commission has released a statement on BART’s shutdown of cell service last week to prevent a protest, even as another protest brews for this evening’s commute.

Since Thursday’s cell shutdown, civil and digital rights activists have raised questions on the legality of the move, and have encouraged the FCC to intervene.

Today FCC spokesperson Neil Grace sent the following statement:

“Any time communications services are interrupted, we seek to assess the situation. We are continuing to collect information about BART’s actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks.”

Thereby suggesting that the FCC, which regulates interstate and international communications including mobile phones, has indeed taken in interest in the case.

In addition, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents (among others) BART train operators and station agents, released a statement calling on the “California Public Utilities Commission, BART’s regulator, to investigate software glitches, public and employee safety and working conditions.”

Describing the cell phone block as “A decision-making process in which BART’s spokesperson makes public safety decisions without consulting BART management or its front-line workers,” Antonette Bryant, President and Business Agent for ATU 1555 says “the people who run BART have lost our confidence and are putting rider and employee safety at risk.”

“We need a thorough investigation by an outside, independent regulatory agency to find answers,” Bryant said.

Meanwhile, however, BART has refused to say if they plan on blocking their cell phone capability again tonight, when a protest is scheduled for 5 PM at the Civic Center Station.

Lisa Derrick | Monday August 15, 2011 02:09 pm 25

Live updates from the protests will be here:

Kelly Canfield | Monday August 15, 2011 02:18 pm 26

We will learn a few things today, I do believe.

As regards the cell issue, there are exactly 4 options for BART I can think of:

1. Do nothing
2. Do what they did last time; cut power, notify Telcos after the fact
3. Get Telcos to cooperate and deny service
4. With no Telco cooperation unilaterally shut down their own DACS

Can’t predict as I can’t find any public noise on the part of the Telcos.

While BART would have to go “deaf” to do #4, The reason I really list it as an option for them is purely evil/tactical. Allison’s statement got me to thinking:

If Telco lawyers are hating on me, and I still REALLY want to shut comm down, by gawd I can. I know the place, means and time of such a disturbance. I can very temporarily shut down my own equipment (say 4:45 to 5:30 – it’s not like a defense op hasn’t used radio silence before), never lay a finger on telco assets, and keep my duty to public safety by pre-placing police and medical assets.

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