A week before the 2014 Boston Marathon, Kevin “Kayvon” Edson was arrested by Boston police and charged with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, disturbing a public assembly, possession or use of a hoax device, and making a false bomb threat. Edson ran near the finish line of the Boston Marathon during the one year remembrance of the bombing while oddly dressed, wearing a backpack with a rice cooker in it, and shouting “Boston Strong.” The Boston Herald quoted a police report about the incident:
“A person wearing no sneakers was approaching the finish line ... and was yelling and screaming, causing many people to notice his actions.” The officers ran toward Edson, “safely approached and stopped the suspect,” and asked what was in his backpack. “The suspect, as he was taking the backpack off his shoulders, stated ‘A rice cooker,’” the report says.
Cops cleared the area and removed Edson’s veil and hat, to find he had a blue streak of makeup running from his left eye to his chin, and a yellow streak on the right. He told cops the backpack — later detonated by a bomb squad — contained the “non explosive rice cooker, a robot mask, two (2) cigarette lighters, two thousand (2,000) business cards, his cellphone and wallet,” the report says.
“It’s symbolism, c’mon,” he told cops, according to the report. “The performance got the best of me.”
The Boston Marathon bombing is a touchy subject and this incident struck a chord with the public. The articles and television news covered the tastelessness of Edson’s actions, but for the most part they have failed to analyze the power grab being made by the Boston Police.
ABC was still spreading incorrect and inflammatory information five days afterwards. Edson did not leave a bag anywhere as a hoax and the second bag belonged to an employee of the TV station NECN, yet according to ABC:
[Boston Police Department Superintendent Bill] Evans’ men got a trial run last week when an alleged hoaxer dropped two bags near the finish line of the marathon, in a similar manner to how the real explosives were planted last year. Authorities reacted quickly and destroyed the ultimately harmless objects.
“It was a nice drill,” Evans said. “It just got us on our toes a little earlier… But I think we did a super job. We did what we were trained to do.”
What exactly is it that Evans’ men are being trained to do?
Consider the facts of this arrest: a man was behaving oddly in a public area (where he had a right to be) while carrying items which are not illegal, yet he was intercepted and arrested. Never once in any document released so far has Edson been quoted as uttering a threat.
The Boston police have made a mighty power grab here, claiming and exercising the ability to arrest a citizen for free expression that they don’t like. If shouting while wearing a backpack is illegal, then most protests I’ve attended are also now illegal. If backpacks near the finish line are illegal, then why wasn’t the NECN employee who left a second bag unattended similarly arrested and charged?
Mayor Marty Walsh's comments in The Herald criticized the handling of the incident, saying that the Boston police should have initiated their assault on the First and Fourth Amendments more quickly.
“It’s an open, public place, Boylston Street. People can come and go and walk down as they please. I don’t know all the circumstances around it, but it definitely wasn’t a security breach,” Walsh said. “But clearly if he walked two blocks ... he should not have been allowed to walk two blocks.”
Not only do I think Edson's arrest was wrongful, but I also think a double standard is at play here.
The MBTA’s “dynamic duo” were stationed in a caged in entrance of the closed Arlington T stop about two blocks from the 2014 Boston Marathon’s finish line. Their post was where runners were ushered out to meet their families and supporters.
— MBTA Transit Police (@MBTATransitPD) April 21, 2014
When one member of the "dynamic duo" saw me recording her, she told me she was in a cage “because I killed the last person who took a picture of me.” The officer was, of course, making a tasteless joke and not seriously threatening to murder me.
Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear a police officer standing near the finish line of the marathon joking about murdering reporters so soon after Edson’s arrest. The officer made her comment to me while in the presence of other police officers, including one who was standing in the small cage directly next to her, none of whom said anything to her or took any action.
I'm against criminalizing freedom of expression, but I decided it was worth broadcasting this officer's comments to show a double standard. How is an armed police officer joking about murder near the finish line of the Boston Marathon any different from Edson's "performance?"
Edson is due back in court tomorrow. I hope that the court firmly rebukes this power grab by the Boston police.