What do you do if you’re a city and you’re trying to minimize the damage from a protest? Well, if you’re San Francisco and run the Bay Area Rapid Transit, you just disable cell service at a few stations.
On August 11, there was a protest effort aimed at disrupting service at various BART stations in response to BART police’s fatal shooting of a passenger. Of course, this was just another spark between the communities, as there have been a few other examples of BART law enforcement which certain people believe cross the line.
In a prepared statement, BART said:
Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police. A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.
This is actually probably the smartest way to diffuse protests and other means, as mobile technology is perfect for real-time coordination efforts. I’m not saying this was the right move or that a peaceful protest can be compared to the riots in London (which were aided by BBM) but this does show the powerful role these devices can play in our lives.