San Francisco Cops Jam Cell Phones to Prevent Protest

It's not just the London police and Middle East dictators who try to curb unrest by clamping down on communications networks. According to reports, police in San Francisco are jamming cell phones to head off protesters.

Protesters had planned to gather at a San Francisco BART station during rush hour to protest the fatal July shooting of Charles Hill by a BART police officer. But the protest never materialized. One reason, possibly, is the extreme lengths police went to make sure potential protesters couldn't communicate. From CBS San Francisco:

As an added precaution, the agency shut off cellphone service on the station's platform. While Alkire said the tactic was an unusual measure, he said it was "a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose" given that the agency was expecting a potentially volatile situation.
"This group seems to want to challenge BART, challenge the police department," Alkire said.

This has caused a twitter firestorm, under the hashtag #muBARTek, a reference to Internet-killing former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. The hacktivist collective Anonymous has already started planning Operation BART.

Some are saying that was illegal, because only federal agencies are allowed to block communications and BART isn't one. Even it if it is legal: Does San Francisco really want to be Johnny-come-lately to the hot new trend set by brutal Middle East dictators?

Update: According to a BART statement, police didn't technically "jam" cell phones. They asked wireless providers to turn off their signal in the station.

[via Jillian York, image via AP]