Revolutionary Goal

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As American as Apple Pie, or, Who's on the Right Side of History in the First Amendment Debate, (and did I mention #Anonymous?)

Today, September 27th, 2011, I want to use this blog post to address a question raised by  @pixplz who asked in a tweet sent on 26 September, "Maybe now would be a good time to look back at what accomplished, and what issues remain unresolved." If the title of this post is any indication, it might lead you to believe you were going to read about something "as American as Apple Pie," and that's true. That's the case. But these days, the people who are the real "Captain Americas" in my book, and who are making and baking the good ol' American Apple Pie, are in fact those who are associated with #OpBART and #Anonymous, because they have taken a critical stand in favor of, and not against, our 1st Amendment.
So, what has #OpBART accomplished, if anything?
1) Its protests (seven of them, so far, counting #OpBART-7 ~ Ride the Streets | ) have resulted, without the shadow of a doubt, in increased public awareness about the issues surrounding Oscar Grant and BART Police methods, and have resulted, by and large, in general public dismay regarding BART's response (via shutdowns of wifi and cellular service nodes) to public protests.
2) It has challenged the unconstitutional notion adopted by BART that people cannot express themselves freely wherever they please.
3) It has presented an opportunity for public interest groups and individuals to submit to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not only public comment on these issues, but an Emergency Petition for Declaratory Ruling.  An Emergency Petition was sent to the Commission by @publicknowledge with the following parties also joining as petitioners:  and the Broadband Institute [ at  ] -- and the text of the petition that these public interest groups joined together on is available online at
Additionally, another Emergency Petition specifically having to do with the cellular service shutdowns conducted by BART on August 11, 2011, was submitted by me to the FCC, and is available for download as a PDF at  - which contains arguments based on the Communications Act of 1934, Telecommunications Act of 1996, and rights of the person based on our rights to speech, travel, and case law pertaining to the same. It also gives a nod to #Anonymous and the role of dissent at the tail end of the Petition, and requests as part of the Petition for Declaratory Ruling that the FCC designate specific types of training be mandated for BART personnel.  (To the best of my knowledge, my Petition is the only one that specifically requests the FCC take the step of designating mandated training for BART personnel.)
4) Because my Petition, at  has not yet received a docket number and is not yet published at the FCC website (to enable public review and comment) despite the fact that it was received by the FCC on September 9, 2011, and neither is the Petition that was submitted by Public Knowledge, and because the FCC has suggested, as I have inquired about what my docket number is (or when it will be given to me) that I speak to the Chief of Public Safety and Homeland Security, I have decided to take advantage of the strengths of my Congressman and his staff and use their constituent casework services.  Some good news today I received from his office, which is in receipt of my petition as well as a copy of this  (the results of a CPRA request from Christopher Soghoian and Jacob Appelbaum) - is that if the FCC does not act to provide a docket number on or before thirty days have passed from the FCC's receipt of my Petition (by Monday, October 10), then the Congressman's office will be contacting the FCC directly to inquire and request that this be done, and I will be contacted when the docket is provided to the Congressman's office.   
Only when this Petition is docketed will the FCC have to consider public comment associated with it, and will the FCC have to render a decision that takes into account not only the Petition but any public comment submitted online through the site where this customarily occurs at .
5) #OpBART has, to some extent, placed pressure on the legislative establishment, which held a hearing today, Sept. 27, 2011 on BART Police Oversight in the California State Capitol, as special hearing of the Assembly Public Safety Committee.  It is clear from the remarks of the legislators at the Committee that there are some changes that they desire to see at BART:  For example:
     a) Crisis Intervention Training - Most BART officers have not been receiving it, and both legislators and BART police agree that it is needed for the bulk of the BART officers.  See
     b) Board of Directors and BART Governance - The BART Board is "negligent," according to Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tom Ammiano.
     c) Cell Phone Service Cuts by BART Police -  According to Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, "I think the decision to cut off the cell phones (...) indicated to me there is not good understanding by BART and the deparment management about how to deal with these crowds and protests."  It is clear that the concerns of cutting off the cell phones and the issue of whether or not this will become a precedent are on the minds of the Assemblymembers and not just on the minds of protesters and some members of the public.
I am aware of some Anons who attended and at least one made a blog post of the experience that he/she had while at the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

6) I believe this is in no small part due to the influence of #OpBART.  Recently, something that could not make it as breaking news in any mainstream media San Francisco newspaper (nor on TV in San Francisco or anywhere else as far as I could tell), broke in Bloomberg, in a story here, thanks to the efforts of Susan Crawford
@scrawford and George Anders @GeorgeAnders who are to be commended for their work.  It is not easy to take something like an FCC petition and turn it into a really interesting story for public consumption, while also suggesting a proper course of action, and they have done just that.
7) And, finally, it would be wrong for me not to mention that #OccupyFDSF / #OccupySF is growing, a movement which has been periodically joined with #OpBART, and which has found itself at times participating in or near Civic Center or other BART stations. The FCC petition(s) and other legal measures will continue to reinforce the rights of people to exercise means of free speech and communication without threat or compromise of the systems they use for the same. The twitter accounts for these two movements, which I recommend you follow, are at @OpBART and @OccupyFDSF and also @OccupySF (appears to be a branch movement similar to #OccupyFDSF) which is at Civic Center (location similar to #OpBART's standard practice) at the time of this post publication to the web.
8) This is not going away!  The public is waking up to what is going on.  If one type of protest diminishes, another effort occurs in another venue, and the struggle transforms and continues.  There is no question that there are issues unresolved relating to BART, including the lack of training for BART personnel generally on how to handle difficult encounters, training on how to properly respond to protest situations, and there remains unresolved the issue of the regulatory response from the FCC and how it will rule on the matter of the Petitions submitted to it, but if anything this whole matter has cast into stark focus who we are as Americans and whether we are willing to be cast down a dark hole into submission and the endless creep of relinquishment of our rights until there is nothing left, or whether we are willing to take a stand and make a change to make something right.  There are those among us who have chosen the latter.  And we will be on the right side of history.

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