23 August 2011

#OpBart Round 2: Anonymous still doesn't get it

I had intended this to be a much longer post, but there is just so much material to cover that I decided to wrap it up into a short summary. If readers have specific comments or concerns I'll certainly be willing to go into more detail.

A few points:
  • A week after citing In re Hoffman, protesters don't seem to have actually read the case. Crowding a train platform to protest is in and of itself causing a disruption in service. Blocking escalators (when the police tried to clear out the Civic Center station) is causing a disruption. Neither of these are protected by the First Amendment.
  • Along the same lines, people seem to still think that peaceful always means lawful. As I explained last week, this is not always the case. There's a reason it's called civil disobedience.
  • Blocking traffic, as reported on the BART police scanner and tweeted by @YourAnonNews, is certainly not an activity protected by the First Amendment. This is yet another example of the naivete of the protesters in painting their own free speech with an overly broad brush.
  • Once again, people seemed incredulous that there are limits to the First Amendment. I implored people to read and understand Time, Place and Manner (TPM) restrictions, which are a well-established part of First Amendment law. Look, you have every right in the world to disagree with TPM restrictions (such as permits), but being ignorant of them is a failure on your part. You may think its undemocratic to require a permit to protest, and you have every right to believe that! But the truth is that TPM restrictions are the reality.
  • Many people expressed shock at the number of police and the fact that they were in "riot" gear with bean bag shotguns, etc. It's called precaution, I'm sure you've heard of it. Like it or not, that long line of police on the street is protecting you from traffic, and other people too. Could you imagine if a protester was hit by a car on a busy street? People would be howling that they police did nothing to protect them.
  • One woman with a bullhorn who was featured on the ABC News stream decided to unleash her entire political platform in front of the camera. Most of her rant had absolutely nothing to do with BART. People are hijacking your protest for their own causes.
  • Police repeatedly reported protester numbers around 150-200.
  • Being accused of trolling by Anonymous and Anon sympathizers is surreal.Now I'll admit there is a gray area between pushing buttons (which I certainly do), and trolling. That being said, putting forth an alternate viewpoint is not trolling, it only helps to diversify the otherwise echo chamber that exists in the Twitter #OpBart stream.Arguing a valid point, even if it provokes a response, is not trolling. Still, given the history of Anonymous and 4chan, I take the accusation of trolling like receiving a gold medal. (Clarification: lest it be thought otherwise, I am most definitely trophy hunting (thanks for the comment). I have said before, and I'll say again, that I support civility in public discourse (recognizing that I am far from perfect). Still, I thought it was ironic to be accused of such from Anons).
  • A Monday article in SFGate received almost all negative comments concerning the previous protest last week and the (planned) Monday protest. Those interviewed on TV seemed frustrated. In short, there is little or no public sympathy for the #OpBart protests at the train stations. I (and many others) have suggested protesting elsewhere, but that seems to have fallen upon deaf ears. How about then that you consider the words of Jennifer Granick, a well-known lawyer, highly respected in the tech community, who previously worked for the EFF: Protests should be at BART HQ interfering with management business as usual, not at the stations screwing with commuters' work.
In summary: How cool is our First Amendment that we can openly protest government actions? It's awesome, and I fully support the right of people to protest. That being said, do it within the well-established rubric of First Amendment law, especially Time, Place, and Manner restrictions (if you have problems with TPM, that's a fight for another day). Ignorance of the law is not an excuse to do whatever you want. I seriously recommend you consult some good First Amendment lawyers (and stop getting "legal" advice from Twitter, seriously). Get a permit and get a plan together to protest at BART HQ or someone else that doesn't cause disruption.  Do all that, and I'll absolutely support your protest. I bet the BART commuters will, too.

There is so much more to cover, but that's enough for now. If you have questions or comments about specific actions, please post them in the questions or hit me up on my Twitter account and I'll be sure to address them. Until next week...
Post a Comment