Last Friday I was glued to my computer with every tiny detail of the police chase in Boston. If you don’t know what talking about, I’m not going to recap the story for you because if you haven’t heard by now you must be living under a rock. Besides, you probably shouldn’t get your news sources from a novice opinion blogger. Google it.
But if you haven’t seen some of the pictures, check them out. The whole incident is absolutely surreal.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen the pictures take a look. Are we okay with this?
Maybe you are: I’m not trying to assert a value judgment. In fact, most of the people I spoke with said that the police response was both appropriate and understandable given the circumstances. Overwhelming force and a shelter in place advisory were justified in order to both bring a very dangerous suspect into custody and keep the citizens of Boston safe. If that meant deploying thousands of heavily armored police forces to search door-to-door and pulling families out of their homes, so be it. Issuing the shelter in place advisory meant folks would be off the streets if another fire fight broke out.
Sure I get that. It makes sense to me. The bombing at the Boston Marathon was a horrific thing and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev really needed to be brought in. I don’t want anyone to take what I’m about to write as being disrespectful to the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing or the men and women of the police forces.
But the civil libertarian in me can’t help but wring my hands and mutter, “Gee guys, is this all really necessary? It seems like a bit much.” The ease with which a great Americans city slipped into Marshall Law was unsettling. Again, thousands of militarized policemen/policewomen (Local, State, Federal), armed with high powered weaponry, rolled through the streets in armored vehicles like they were in Kabul. It’s hard not to think that the chickens are coming home to roost. The homeland has become the battlefield. This is what the modern police state looks like; a system fed on over a decade of Department of Homeland Security hardware subsidies.
I’m going with the theory that the response was just overzealous, not a test of mass oppression. The tin foil hat is away I promise. Nonetheless, the whole thing sent a chill up my spine. Nearly everyone voluntarily complied with such extreme action. Bostonians cheered the tactics instead of questioning them. This scale of response was unprecedented. Look how governments responded to other terrorist attacks. In the wake of far more devastating attacks and arguably more dangerous circumstances, authorities brought in the suspects with a fraction of the level of force and they did it without shutting down the entire city. This was one 19 year old, not an invading army. But now that we’ve set a precedent, could this type of response become the norm? Are there 4th Amendment issues at stake? Should we allow Marshall Law whenever there is a threat to public safety? What happens when people refuse to comply in different circumstances? Would that be a good idea?
To top it all off, the police response may have actually slowed the process down. The police only found the suspect in that boat because they lifted the shelter in place advisory. According to the Boston.com:
The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his [sic] son, Robert Duffy.
I know it’s speculation, but maybe this whole incident would have ended quicker if there were more people out and about who might recognize the suspect.
Quite a few people are just happy that the bad guy is captured and will probably go to jail for a long time. But even if this was the only way to achieve a positive outcome, the residual anger and fear emanating from this incident will drive citizens to trade in their liberty for the false security of a police state. Giving up liberty does not make us safer; it just shifts the balance of power from the people to the government. I’d quote Franklin now if it weren’t so cliché.
I hope we keep having a discussion. We all want liberty right? At least most of us? Let’s be vigilant because this is not the last time we’ll see this happen and as post 9/11 Americans know all too well, it’s easy for a society to give up some freedom because they’re overcome by terror. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let that happen to us.
Photo Credit: Apparently it was from spreadlibertynews.com. Not sure how to do this yet, just saw it posted on Facebook a few times and found it provocative.