The latest “yer tramplin’ on mah rights!” fluff comes courtesy of the Chronicle. There have been a series of protests in regards to a drunk, transient guy named Charles Hill in the Civic Center Station who came at two cops with a knife, attempted a ninja toss with said knife, and was then shot and killed by the cops. I stand by the fact that if you try to attack the police, not much good is going to come of that. The protestors stand by the fact that they can disrupt service if they feel like it. Naturally, all us regular commuters who aren’t bored white kids with dreadlocks don’t really see how that constitutes free speech.
And here is the latest turn in the debate with the fact that Bart admitted to cutting mobile service last Thursday when a new batch of “protests” were to occur. At this point, those who claim to be in charge at the Chronicle stood up and said, “I smell a First Amendment Rights story that could be a Pulitzer!” Except that it isn’t. Sure, they’re trying to claim this and that while comparing it to what happened in Egypt with the government shutting down internet and mobile phone networks. The big difference is that there was a public safety issue and sure, in a Post 9/11 World everything can be labeled as such to take advantage of the populace, but in this case, it’s really not.
Those of us who use Bart could care less if these masked protestors (who obviously don’t have jobs to get to) shook signs and yelled and whatever-ed outside the station. The amount of nutjobs I have to avoid on a daily basis doing the same thing would make them non-noticeable. But, when you decide to use your protest as an excuse to spread anarchy (like what happened recently in England) you cross a line and go from First Amendment exerciser to causeless thug. If shutting down mobile phone service stops these people, then great, although just shutting off data service probably would have been as much as was needed given that that is what allows the one to many communication streams that these people rely upon.
This debate is most assuredly going to come up again as mobile phone service is a very new communication medium in the big scheme of things and there gets to be a point in which you ask if it is a human right or just a human nice-to-have. I pretty much will always attest to the later, but what do I know other than the fact that the Chronicle really needs to toss in the towel. This story does not have the legs they thing that they’re giving it.