The weather in Boston during this year's Independence Day was beautiful, but the atmosphere was marred by the an overbearing law enforcement presence and police state checkpoints. The police establishment in Boston has previously claimed the power to search backpacks at checkpoints set up on on public streets during certain events without probable cause. Now they are claiming the power to simply ban backpacks from public places even though there is no law that allows them to do so.
After 9/11 the TSA set up similar checkpoints. They claimed it was to stop terrorism but the TSA has never caught any terrorists and a recent government study found that they are literally almost completely useless when it comes to finding weapons. Anyone who argued about these checkpoints was met with the argument, “If you don’t like it, just don’t fly.” The frog began to boil, and people became accustomed to these searches.
The TSA and their checkpoints moved into other transit centers. Checkpoints run by the TSA and later by the MBTA police popped up in the subways of Boston. “If you don’t like it, just don’t use the subways.” The heat turned up and people began to accept the presence of these checkpoints during their everyday commutes.
During the 2014 Boston Marathon in 2014, these checkpoints spread to the streets of Boston. There was a heavy police presence and the checkpoints had “All bags are subject to search,” banners posted outside them.
During the 2015 Boston Marathon, the checkpoints returned and Boston police threatened to arrest me for exercising my Fourth Amendment right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizures and shoved me around. The water was brought to a boil as the police became comfortable with violently violating the rights they swore to protect, and the public has simply gone along with it.
This July 4, the checkpoints were back for the festivities at the Esplanade. This time it went beyond mandatory searches to outright bans of objects arbitrarily decided upon by law enforcement. A private security guard blocked my path in a public park and detained me. When I asked a Massachusetts state trooper how this could be done legally, he said the Commonwealth had granted this power to the guards.
The personnel stationed at the checkpoints this year included armed military police. The militarization of police is bad enough, but now we have actual military acting as police. Most of the military police came from the Massachusetts Air Guard but I did find one armed woman who had “US Air Force” on her gear.
The frog is dead. They The people of Boston have accepted arbitrary searches. They allowed the police to arbitrarily ban them from carrying around legal items. They have accepted the presence of armed military personnel policing checkpoints on our streets and in our public places.
All this has been done in the name of security, but none of this has made people more secure. The lines at the checkpoints were long, and the people waiting outside them were roped into small areas. These densely packed spaces have the potential to become yet another target for an even deadlier mass killing.
If you don’t like it, just don’t fly, use a train, walk down a sidewalk, or go to a public space. Maybe now the saying should be, “If you don’t like living under a police state, just don’t live in America.”