WATERTOWN, Mass.—Boston-based civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate told Reason.com he is very troubled by the measures taken by law enforcement officials during the manhunt for alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His views contrasted greatly with what this reporter came across during dozens of man-on-the-street interviews conducted across the greater Boston area last week, where residents voiced overwhelming support for the actions of local, state, and federal officials.
“It was only after people were allowed out of their houses did somebody spot the guy, proving that an alert citizenry is more capable of ensuring safety than an army of militarized police,” said Silverglate, who described Gov. Deval Patrick’s advisory to “shelter in place” as “outrageous and counterproductive” and likened it to something out of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World.
“The whole shelter in place was symbolically very bad; it gave the people the notion that we were under some kind of military attack,” said Silverglate, who said Boston was more closed down last week than London was during the German bombings in World War II.
As for the huge outpouring of public support for law enforcement in the wake of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capture, Silverglate called it “very dangerous” and bordering on “adoration.”
“There’s a difference between appreciation and adoration, this has moved into adoration. We have learned that there is a vast militarized law enforcement establishment at the state, federal, and local levels. I actually feel like I am in an occupied country and I don’t know how many other people share my view on that. We have seen the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and it is very scary,” said Silverglate.
The police do have the authority to enter homes without warrants in emergency situations, he added, but the house-to-house searches by militarized police with heavily-armored vehicles only added to the siege mentality of the situation while threatening to set a dangerous new precedent in such investigations. “Every time there is some enlargement of the military industrial national security state it becomes the new normal and I would say we’re in a new normal and this is a very disturbing new normal,” he said.
The executive director of the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union, Carol Rose, was more reserved in her comments about last week’s events, noting that the command to “shelter in place” was not an order but advisory. “It wouldn’t be constitutional for the government to issue that kind of an order absent other kinds of circumstances,” said Rose.
Rose said her office has received reports from people in Watertown and elsewhere that their rights were violated during Friday’s manhunt. They are currently verifying these claims. “We need to get more facts to find out what happened so we can get a better handle on what exactly went down in Watertown and, for that matter, Cambridge,” said Rose, adding this is something that ACLU cares deeply about.
“This is not the time to give up our constitutional rights and civil liberties. This is the time that they become most important. It is in times of crisis and fear that they are most tested,” said Rose.
During the course of my reporting, I was unable to locate a single Watertown resident that admitted to being uncomfortable with the government asking them to “shelter in place” while 9,000 armored police descended on the Greater Boston area in search of a single suspect. In my estimation, the support for law enforcement appeared to be nearly universal, with phrases like “110% support” and “they did a great job” thrown around by virtually everyone I interviewed before, during, and after the manhunt. As one woman told me, “If it were ever to happen again, I'd hope they take the same precautions.”
A petition to the ban the crazy people at the Westboro Baptist Church from picketing the funerals of the victims of the Boston Marathon has already 7,640 signatures. The WBC has announced they intend to picket the funerals whenever and wherever they happen.
Another petition calls for the the Presidential Citizens Medal to be awarded to Carlos Arredondo for "exemplary deeds at the Boston Marathon."
You probably noticed a lunatic shouting questions about a "false flag operation" at Governor Patrick at yesterday's press conference at the Westin. Various outlets are identifying the man as part of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' website Infowars. It's inevitable that there will be more people claiming that yesterday's bombings were the work of some evil government conspiracy to take away our civil liberties or some other such nonsense. The mechanical fire at the JFK Library and a handful of misstatements from the local authorities just add fuel to the conspiratorial fire. Of course nonsensical conspiracy theories about government agents secretly plotting to bomb the Boston Marathon are the last thing angry Boston residents and victims want to hear right now.
For what it's worth I've never been able to jive how people like Jones and those who follow him can think the government can't run a nationalized health care system but can somehow successfully orchestrate secretive actions that kill and maim innocent civilians without any of us catching on.
Anyway, a gentleman in California named Jaimie Muehlhausen purchased the domain "BostonMarathonConspiracy.com/" and place the following statement on the site:
I BOUGHT THIS DOMAIN TO KEEP SOME CONSPIRACY THEORY KOOK FROM OWNING IT.
PLEASE KEEP THE VICTIMS OF THIS EVENT
AND THEIR FAMILIES IN YOUR THOUGHTS.
Reached via email, Muehlhausen declined an interview but did say the following:
Buying the domain name was an impulsive action in anticipation of the inevitable reaction from a certain group of people. Nothing more. This story isn’t about me. I did not do this for any sort of media attention. I did this out of respect for the victims and the families of those affected by this horrible tragedy. I think it would be best to keep the emphasis there. I did this as a private citizen and have no ulterior motives or business angles to it. Just trying to do the right thing.
I have decided not to do any further interviews about it. I think we should focus more on helping the families and victims and not so much the guy who bought a domain name.
Dave Weigel spoke with Muehlhausen earlier.
The recent shifts in public opinion on hot button issues like gay marriage and drug legalization reflect the ascendancy of Generation Y and the struggles of modern day social conservative activists. The changes shown in the charts below did not take place overnight but gradually as more and more people have grown tolerant of gays and lesbians while recognizing the abysmal failure of the War on Drugs.
It may be a few more years, possibly even a decade, before marriage equality and marijuana legalization become a national reality but there is no denying that these two major public policy changes will happen.