By the 2020s, the American government – reacting to serious problems of homelessness and unemployment – created special Sanctuary Districts (essentially walled-off sections of the city grid) in most major cities. Unfortunately – while established with the benevolent intent of providing free housing and food, as well as prospects for future employment – the Sanctuaries quickly degenerated into inhumane internment camps for the poor. Even though people with criminal records were not allowed inside Sanctuaries, it didn't take long for the homeless and unemployed to be joined by the mentally ill and other, more violent, social outcasts. These groups were referred to by their slang terms – Gimmies, Dims, and Ghosts.
By late 2024, the twenty square blocks that made up Sanctuary District A had become overcrowded slums. With the records of people inside the Sanctuaries not uploaded to the planetary computer network (and therefore not accessible using an Interface), the true conditions inside were unknown to the general public. American society believed that, despite the political upheaval affecting Europe at the time, the United States was stable and had found a way to successfully deal with the social problems that had been the genesis of the Sanctuaries. An "out of sight, out of mind" mentality had set in. People in the district started to believe that their needs were forgotten.
Early in the morning of September 1st, the conditions surrounding the distribution of food rations sparked a riot, wherein the Ghosts led by B.C. attacked the Sanctuary guards and quickly captured the Sanctuary Processing Center as well as the rest of the district. Armed with the weapons of the overpowered guards, the Ghosts took six center employees hostage, including Vin, Calvera, and Lee. They were joined by "Gabriel Bell" and Michael Webb, who acted as the voice and face of the riot while dealing with police negotiator Detective Preston.
Chris Brynner, who owned Brynner Information Systems (which operated Channel 90 on the net), was convinced by Dax to break the law and to reconnect the Processing Center after the police cut it off. Reconnected on September 2nd, many Sanctuary residents (such as Henry Garcia) were able to tell their stories of imprisonment to the outside world. As a result, the American public became aware of the great injustice that had been hidden from them and further riots broke out in Sanctuaries across the US. Despite protests from Detective Preston, the governor of California ordered National Guardsmen to retake the Sanctuary by force on September 3rd at 0500 hours. In the melee, hundreds of Sanctuary residents were killed, including B.C. and Michael Webb. "Gabriel Bell" was shot, protecting Vin and the other hostages (all of whom remained unharmed).
In the wake of the riots, and the senseless death of so many people, public opinion turned against the concept of the Sanctuary Districts. The Districts were abolished as the United States finally began to face the serious social problems it had struggled with for over a century. Because Bell had played a crucial role in protecting the hostages, and in the negotiations prior to the government assault, he was remembered as one of the central figures in the events and his name became forever associated with them.