OPINION – Militarized police swarming through neighborhoods on armored vehicles.
People ordered off the streets due to a curfew.
House-to-house searches without a warrant.
If the search for the accused Boston Marathon bomber wasn’t martial law, it missed a great opportunity.
The danger posed by the fleeing suspect was nothing compared to the menacing, robotic behavior of police toward the citizens they were supposedly protecting.
One of the most revealing examples of aggressive overreaction was the officer clearly pointing his rifle at a citizen taking pictures from his living room window.
There was definitely terror in the streets of Boston, but it was brought to people’s doorstep by the state. The searches of homes in Watertown were reported to be “consensual” but there is ample video evidence that this was not always the case.
It’s understandable that fear and uncertainty would follow the marathon bombings. The violent resistance of the two suspects undoubtedly made things more dangerous for those charged with apprehending them.
But the degree to which authorities were willing to disregard the rights of the entire citizenry is downright chilling. It’s possible that they will be used to establish precedent for how to respond to the next high profile crime. As Butler Shaffer points out,”Undermining rights and respect for rights helps set the stage for further measures that repress liberty. It’s because these searches follow closely on the heels of other measures that have already laid the foundation of an American police state.”
Considering that our government already claims power to indefinitely detain us, to kill us by drone strike, and to conduct surveillance on our phone calls, emails, and online activities, this is a predictable escalation.
The circumstances under which police may search a home without a warrant are limited to four main circumstances.
1. When they receive consent from a person who is in control of the property.
2. When an officer sees something in plain view that is either contraband or evidence of a crime.
3. During a search incident to arrest.
4. Under exigent circumstances in which delay could compromise public safety or a loss of evidence.
Had the bombing suspect been observed running into a specific home or business, exigent circumstances would likely apply, but in this case, police had no clue where the suspect had fled. Authorities are trying to hide behind exigent circumstances to justify ignoring the rule of law and due process. And it still didn’t lead them to the suspect.
What actually brought the search to a close was a defiant citizen who disobeyed the curfew and slipped out to his yard for a smoke. The homeowner noticed the cover of his boat wasn’t properly attached and notified police when he spotted blood on the boat trailer.
Few people have condemned the tyrannical behavior of the state. Many people actually cheered it when the Boston police tweeted the message, “CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.”
The comment about justice brings to mind Thrasymachus the sophist in Plato’s “Republic” who famously remarks that “justice is the advantage of the stronger” and “injustice, if it is done on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice.”
The fact that people cheered the official injustice being done to entire neighborhoods of innocent people appears to vindicate what Thrasymachus was suggesting. Years of conditioning the American citizenry to value security over their freedom are finally starting to bear fruit.
Constitutional attorney John Whitehead doesn’t mince words, “The lesson for the rest of us is this: once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny.”
Is it any wonder that our leaders are increasingly pushing for a disarmed citizenry? The display in and around Boston was to remind us who is in charge, not to protect the people.
If the actions of the authorities in Boston are allowed to become the new normal, the American police state will be a regrettable reality.
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