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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
IS THE CELL PHONE THE MODERN DAY EQUIVALENT OF A BULL HORN?
Jennings Fellow and NPR Correspondent Carrie Johnson reported last week on the decision by officials of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) to temporarily shut down cell service in some of its stations. The decision was made to frustrate organization of a protest of the shooting death of a BART system rider by BART police. Johnson quotes a BART spokesperson as saying that there is "a constitutional right to safety" and that the protest threatened to put riders at risk of injury. The Supreme Court has determined that subway stations are not a public forum, and therefore not subject to the kind of protection for public expression that might operate in a park or other above-ground venue. But Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center tells her that BART's action raises questions "about government interfering with the ability of you and I to talk to each other." He describes the cell phone as the modern day equivalent of a bull horn, which was commonly used for organizing protesters in the 1960s.