- Associated Press - Monday, August 22, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Police have arrested at least eight protesters and closed two downtown San Francisco subway stations during the evening commute.

About 100 demonstrators on Monday were protesting the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency’s decision to cut wireless service in its San Francisco stations earlier this month to quell another demonstration. BART’s action touched off a worldwide debate over free speech and prompted retaliation by hackers.

BART police arrested four protesters shortly after 5:30 p.m. at the Civic Center station for protesting on the subway platform. BART police said other arrests were made as the protesters roamed up and down San Francisco’s Market Street as night fell, prompting the opening and shutting of stations.

As of 7:30 p.m., the Civic Center and Powell stations were closed.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Transit police arrested at least four protesters and briefly closed two subway stations during the evening commute Monday during a small demonstration over the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s tactic of cutting wireless communication to quell a previously planned protest.

It was the second such protest in seven days at the same Civic Center station, where transit police shot and killed a transient July 3, which was the original target of demonstrators. Both protests were over the BART action.

The protest Aug. 15 was larger, noisier and prompted the closure of four downtown stations as more than 300 protesters marched through downtown San Francisco. That day, a phalanx of police officers and several helicopters protected businesses that shut early along the protest route on Market Street.

The latest protest drew about 100, but there was no police phalanx guarding the fast-food restaurants, payday loan store and other establishments that remained open above the station.

“I don’t care about the cell phone stuff,” said Tony Wallace, a homeless man standing in front of the payday loans store watching the protesters after BART police closed the station below and forced everybody on the streets. “I do care about them shooting people. They are out of control, for sure.”

Despite the smaller turnout, transit police showed less tolerance and patience than the previous demonstration.

“This has been an ongoing process,” BART Deputy Chief Daniel O. Hartwig said of the decision to make arrest protesters for the first time.

Hartwig said the four will be charged with trespassing on rail transit property. BART prohibits demonstrations on its platforms, citing safety concerns.

Carey Lamprecht, a volunteer with the National Lawyers Guild observing the protests, said those arrested will most likely be cited and released. She said the charges are minor infractions or misdemeanors most likely punished with a fine if found guilty.

The two closed stations were reopened after about an hour.

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