Free-floating angst, opportunism drive BART drama 

If I launched a demonstration for every time I lost cellphone service, I’d protest myself right out of a job.

And if I had a quarter for every time BART screwed up, I wouldn’t need a job.

I count myself among the many Bay Area residents having trouble keeping up with the fast-changing events of the past week, some of the incidents causing much chaos and questioning.

Needless to say, a lot of it doesn’t make sense — because if it did, we’d be living somewhere else.

I’m pretty sure the high-altitude hiking I did last week didn’t destroy any brain cells, but just to be certain, let’s review the facts.

Anger over BART police-related incidents caused a bunch of people to lash out at the agency, but the organized demonstration wasn’t so organized because BART cut off cellphone service that allows hard-marching protesters to keep track of their (and each other’s) angry whereabouts.

This proactive move by BART officials may be the only rapid part of the transit agency, and the response ignited yet another planned protest by people who don’t like their apps messed with. A bunch of civil-rights groups and social-network junkies weighed in, saying they didn’t like it or didn’t know what to make of it.

Lawsuits were threatened, though no one quite understood what laws were violated.

The protesters marched again, but were thwarted by police who kept them away from the BART stations that BART was quickly closing, angering thousands of passengers.

So BART can flip the on/off switch but can’t arrest anyone?

We know that BART exists for two reasons — to move large numbers of commuters to various parts of the Bay, and to allow other public transit agencies to be joyous that they do not employ private security officers who can’t handle guns and shouldn’t have them in the first place. We get that, just as we also understand that engaging in activities that threaten the safety and free movement of other people is both entirely misdirected and completely self-defeating.

As part of this larger self-inflicted blow, the group Anonymous hacked BART’s website, releasing the personal information of more than 2,000 customers. And then Wednesday, a group hacked the BART police’s website, posting names and personal information online. Now that’s something worth protesting.

These outbreaks of anarchy have been happening with such frequency lately that they’re beginning to give free speech a bad name.

A few weeks back, protesters descended on the streets of San Francisco to express outrage over a Bayview shooting involving police in which a young man died.

It turns out the man, Kenneth Wade Harding, was a known criminal with a predatory nature toward young girls.

Harding was running from police with a gun in his hand when he accidentally shot himself in the head — the moral here being that when you point a gun at police, bad things happen.

I’d bet you an iPhone that some of the people who got lathered up over Harding were involved in the BART maneuvers, misplaced anger and a perceived opportunity being the common themes. This time, at least they did manage to find the BART stations — when protesters came out to clamor over the Bayview shooting, they ended up descending on the Castro.

I’ll let the digit-heads debate it, but the last time I looked, carrying a cellphone was neither a constitutionally protected right nor a civil one. They are mighty convenient though, and no one likes having their smartphones knocked cell-less. It might not have been the best public relations ploy, but we’re talking about BART, which knows no other way (see above).

Even so, it appears the public backlash is not aimed at the transit agency, but at those who would try to disrupt it in a loud and threatening manner. That is what happens when a bunch of angry people set out on an unclear mission. It’s kind of like the Bay Area’s version of the tea party, except they’re not shutting down the government, they’re interfering with the daily commute.

My advice would be to take all the overcharged feelings to the next BART board meeting, but cellphones are no good there either.

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Ken Garcia

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