War: July 2005 Archives

not so simple now, even for white guys, but maybe it never was

UPDATE: I received a very constructive comment on my last post, "bag the entrance searches, we need exits!", from Matt of the "Flex your Rights Foundation," and I thought it would be extremely useful as a post of its own.

Go here for The Citizen's Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches. The site includes an excellent introduction to its practical advice on how to "safely and intelligently 'flex' your rights":

In response to the recent London terror attacks, New York police officers are now conducting random searches of bags and packages brought into the subway.

While Flex Your Rights takes no position on the usefulness of these searches for preventing future attacks, we have serious concerns that this unprecedented territorial expansion of police search powers is doing grave damage to people's understanding of their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In addition, as innocent citizens become increasingly accustomed to being searched by the police, politicians and police agencies are empowered to further expand the number of places where all are considered guilty until proven innocent.

Fortunately, this trend is neither inevitable nor irreversible. In fact, the high-profile public nature of these random subway searches provides freedom-loving citizens with easy and low-risk opportunities to "flex" their Fourth Amendment rights by refusing to be searched.

The site includes a handy guide-flyer which can be downloaded and printed for giving out to friends and strangers, dressing up a refrigerator or carrying in your . . . er, . . . bag.

[image of Norman Rockwell's 1958 "The Runaway" from the artchive]

the wrong kind of crowd control

It's a good thing it was Penn Station, because virtually none of New York's Transit system stations could be evacuated for either a real or a false alarm.

Chief Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg's new policy of passenger searches absolutely will not prevent a terrorist hit in our subway system. A real terrorist will just take another train or set off a weapon on the spot. But if something does happen tomorrow, any survivors of an initial attack are likely already doomed by today's official negligence.

They'll never get out.

Sometimes there are a few regular low-bar turnstiles at a station, but most of the time passengers have to exit through ceiling-to-floor turnstile cages which admit only one person at a time. In addition, even though there are often a number of exit stairways in each station, during many hours of the day (or permanently) all but one of them is locked, even those which can only be used as exits!

There's no chance a number of cars and a platform could be emptied in anyone's definition of a hurry. Up to 2000 people may be on a single train, and many more might be on the platform, waiting or leaving, at the same time. Most everyone will have to pass through cages one at a time. I sounds to me like this could easily take a half hour or more.

In addition, it won't help any of us to survive if the system's emergency lighting is still connected to the third rail, as it is now. When train power is cut for whatever reason there is no light anywhere in the tunnels.

Looking to the near future, the MTA is still proceding with plans to eliminate clerks in the stations, conductors in the cars, and even motormen at the stick. Where is the sanity?

Our politicians and public guardians hope to give us the impression that they are making us all safer with unconstitutional searches. Certainly they know the policy is wrong and useless, so why are they not addressing a very real danger but jumping at the chance to push this obviously bogus remedy? I think it's because sending the police in to go through the bags of people of color is much less trouble, much less expensive, and, above all, much less like an embarrassing admission of continuing incompetence - that is, until something really does happen.

For a personal account of our own experience of MTA incompetence in a real incident, fortunately with neither serious injuries nor terrorism involved, see this post.

[image from the MTA]

Jean Charles de Menezes

The gang of men who accosted and chased a terrified young electrician into the tube where they shot five bullets into his head after he tripped and fell onto the floor of a car filled with people were plainclothes policemen.

Jean Charles de Menezes entered Britain with student visa; he may or may not have still been a legal resident three days ago, but on the other hand, especially by post-9/11 standards, it's clear he was not perfectly white.

I don't want to hear or read anything more about how the victim was responsible* for his own death - and that we should all expect the same treatment ourselves to save us from terrorists.

For more, see the post of a friend/acquaintance:

His English was OK, but he wasn’t fluent. He was pursued by up to 20 normally dressed men who screamed at him in a language that was not his own. Jean comes from Brasil, a country where violent crime is a lot more ‘in your face’ than it is over here. A group of plainclothes men screaming at you, chasing you, you fucking run. Brasilian police frequently shoot the public indiscriminantly, there was an incident earlier this week - 10 killed. Maybe Jean had thoughts about this when he ran, I don’t know. Watch "Bus 174".

including the only two letters read on the BBC News Hour this morning

[image from finn]

the Madtown Liberty Players portray the Fourth Amendment under attack (two years ago)

The House voted today to make the "Patriot Act" permanent. In what may be the least patriotic vote ever recorded in that chamber, our representatives effectively moved to revoke the Fourth Amendment for all time.

My countrymen are cowards. They are ignorant of themselves and of the world. The unknown is always what we fear, and this country has an enormous dark store of the nameless feeding its private terrors.

Americans don't know who they are, and they don't know the outside world. We never had to learn anything about either subject, and for pretty much the same reason: the country was just so big; we were busy filling it up and we could pretty much ignore everyone outside our borders and most of them inside. We don't like people anyway, whether they're from another continent, another city, another neighborhood, another family. I don't even have to mention our class, racial and ethnic insularity, they are so well-documented. We don't even like to be too close to those in our own families. We like the separation the oceans furnish us and we wish there were others on our northern, and especially southern, borders. We want as much space as we can manage to arrange between ourselves and the next fellow's place, and everyone in the family should have a private room and bath, as well as his or her own car.

I'm appalled, but not surprised, by this cowardice on the one hand and on the other a welcoming, even enthusiastic, support for, excuse the expression, but I do know my history, clearly "fascist" concepts of political control that are being embraced by so many of our fellow freedom-loving Americans. These are people who will still boast tomorrow that they enjoy a unique island of liberty and democracy blessed by a god who favors their virtue.

America has indeed been terrorized. It was the work of a single brilliant and monstrous blow, but the land of the free and the home of the brave is now willing to trash its heritage for the mere illusion of security. While most of its people are willing to admit the trade, they don't see the disconnect.

We're doomed.

[image from Madison Indymedia]

a Palestinian man walks next to a section of a wall eight-meters high built by the Israeli government, arbitrarily separating Jerusalem (and some additional annexed lands) from the Palestinian suburb of Abu Dis

We will not prevent terrorist acts by raising walls or bombing innocent strangers with sophisticated weaponry; by increasing the legal penalties for posession of a bomb; by spying on each other, high-tech or otherwise; by humiliating "the other;" by outlawing nail files or lighters; by putting an armed guard in every environment which has been a previous target; by incarcerating all the brown people on earth; by staying at home behind drawn curtains.

If we want to see it cease, we have to look to the cause of the terrorist response, not its manifestations. And it is a response; terrorism is always a response of the weak to the assaults of the powerful.

Terrorism feeds on imperialism. Neither of these is a state, merely a tactic; eliminate the imperialism and the threat from terrorism will disappear. We will never be made safe by building walls or by extending the power of our own state at home or abroad; the entire planet will survive and prosper if we recognize the appropriate limitations of that state and the proper proportion of our people, and placing both in the community of all nations and peoples.

[image from Newsday by Moises Saman]

leaving it up to the riders

Barry has just about covered the issue, with the help of Newsday's estimable Ray Sanchez, but a letter to the editor published in the NYTimes helps to illustrate the scale of the criminal incompetence and negligence of those at the top by bringing up the most recent scandal involving the MTA:

To the Editor:

The terrorist blasts in London and a similar attack last year in Madrid dramatically point to the vulnerability of New York's transit system to a similar attack.

Despite setting aside nearly $600 million [state and federal money] to secure the transit network against a terrorist strike, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has accomplished little since 9/11. It was not until March 2003 that the agency announced a plan to address the transit system's weaknesses.

In fact, the lion's share of the money has not been allocated. The agency's most public initiative is a failed proposal to ban photography by straphangers.

Its foot-dragging is especially unsettling when contrasted with the speed with which it rushed through a deal for the proposed West Side stadium. [the italics are mine]

Instead of issuing color-coded alerts, the federal government and the M.T.A. should urgently undertake measures with existing money to enhance security.

Manuel Cortazal
Bronx, July 7, 2005

Wish us all luck. It looks like we're going to need it.

[image from the MTA]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from July 2005.

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