Federal Street, Boston. 4.19.13 @ 9:40 AM. Any other day it is filled with people. by Brian Birke
I don't recall in my life or my exposure to US history a previous episode where a whole city was locked down, with a combination people told not to leave their homes, public transportation shut down and all vehicular traffic stopped.
With the threat of flooding of the subways, the subways were shut down in NYC. But the city was not locked down.
When there is something dangerous going on-- a gun-fight, a hostage situation, a gas leak-- police have historically cordoned off areas of a few blocks.
Sometimes there are road-blocks that police use to check for people on the run.
Many people will argue that it worked. The police shut down the city and the on-the-run suspect was captured. That is ridiculous, poor logic. There is no reason to conclude that the lockdown led to the capture. On the contrary, the fugitive, Tsarnaev, was seen AFTER the lockdown was ended, when a man came out of his house.
If the use of a metropolitan area-wide lockdown is accepted by the public, the media and legislators, it can and almost certainly will become a precedent that will be used in the future to lock down other cities, other metro areas and perhaps even whole states or collections of states.
If the powers that be can lock down a city based on the argument that they have to hunt for terrorists and protect citizens, then the government can simply tell us that there is a terrorist threat that is top security. They can create boogeymen who we know nothing about and then use "them" to lock down a city or larger area. They can take away the most basic rights-- the rights to walk out of our homes.
If you extrapolate this policy just a little, then any policeman can tell you not to go anywhere, can order you to stay in your house indefinitely. This is a very slippery slope.
Police do currently have the legal power to give some orders to some people at some places. Those powers are limited. Abuse of them can lead to appeals for unreasonable arrests and even lawsuits that result in financial damages paid by the city that employs the police.
When the powers of the police and of government are expanded so greatly there is a great risk that the limitations of police power-- important limitations that are essential for preventing abuse of police power-- something I have seen many times, particularly during activist protests-- there is a huge risk that the restrictions and limitations will be weakened or eliminated entirely.
I realize the position I am taking will yield criticism-- that many will say that the police did what they had to do. I disagree. I believe the police did far more than they needed. I believe that what they did was not successful. It failed and perhaps delayed an earlier capture of the fugitive. The all day lock-down "brought the tenth largest metropolitan area in the US to a complete standstill," as Melissa Harris Perry described. That's right. Over 4.6 million people
were locked down. Do the math. Eight hours times that population and you have 36.8 million hours of house arrest.
HOUSE ARREST!! That's what criminals are given as punishments. This is what happened in Boston. People were under house arrest. You can argue I'm just framing it that way. Hell yes. Why would it not be considered in all the different possible lights?
To summarize, my position is that the lockdown of such a large area was unprecedented, did not work, should not have been done, should have its legality questioned and challenged and there should be legislation that bans it ever happening again short of invasion-- and that contingency for invasion is already on the books.
There are all kinds of conspiracy theories arising. People are asking a lot of questions and sometimes leaping to conclusions. Those are different conversations. This issue I am raising may or not be a part of those theories. But it seems to me that it is one that should get mainstream discussion and assessment.
The US, since 9/11, has been sliding more and more towards becoming a nation where rights are being restricted and taken away, moving more towards becoming a police state.
2009 Police Presence at Pittsburgh. comment by photographer: -20 Finance Ministers have robbed Pension Plans, Looted 401 k's, Foreclosed Mortgages, Smashed Dreams, and Ruined Lives, yet they get this sort of Police Protection. by Bill Perry
There are many people who make excuses, who say that if these restrictions of our rights keep us safe, they are okay. They are making a huge mistake. Ben Franklin got it right when he said, " Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
The use of such a massive martial collection of forces is another question that should be challenged, as is the use of private security forces as some have observed were present at the finish line of the Marathon. But those are separate issues I am not addressing here, though they deserve attention and discussion, since it looks like neither of those worked either.