Wake up America

Immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing, the United States Constitution was suspended for all residents of Watertown, Massachusetts.  An entire city was placed on “lockdown” as residents were told not to leave their homes, businesses were told to keep their doors closed, roads in and out were blocked off, and SWAT teams accompanied by armored vehicles went door to door with assault rifles searching people’s homes for the bombing suspect.

I’ve spent a few hours on the internet, reading message boards and articles which, for the most part, express the opinion that it was justified.  I looked for any indication that the searches were voluntary, but only found home videos and photos of squads of armed officers entering people’s homes.  I looked for examples of citizens who said “no, you cannot come into my home,” and what happened to those people, but found none.  I looked for video to see what it was like on the street for the residents, and found a few.  This one appears all over the internet, and shows officers removing residents at gunpoint and searching them as they exit their house:

Other videos only show paramilitary moving down streets, entering houses and yards as they go:

In response to events, appellate opinions, and constitutional rights in general, I have often pointed out how our country is slipping into a police state.  I have said we have to use our rights or we will lose them.  I say that slowly, gradually, we are losing the rights and freedoms that set our nation apart from the rest of the world.  I say that it is the nature of government to consolidate power, to grow ever more powerful, and to subjugate its citizens.  In the space of a few days, we have seen what that looks like, not on the television in a third world dictatorship, but in our own country at our own doorsteps.

Rick Horowitz at Probable Cause writes that he feels deeply for those who are suffering as a result of the bombers’ attack, and that he also fears deeply for the rest of us who have suffered a loss of liberty as a result of the government’s response.  This is a snapshot of life in a post-constitutional world.

An author at Slate.com attempts to explain why the shut-down, occupation, and search of residents’ homes at gunpoint without warrant was constitutional, by listing some of the exceptions to the search warrant requirement – consent, exigent circumstances, “hot pursuit,” the public safety exception, and to provide emergency aid to a resident.  None of these exceptions justify what happened in Watertown.  Never has the public safety exception been used to justify mass detentions and home invasions throughout a town to search for a crime suspect.  Exigent circumstances means an emergency supported by real facts at the scene of the home that is being entered – for example, someone is being attacked in the home or evidence is being destroyed.  “Hot pursuit” would apply if an officer chases a suspect into the house.

Politicians, including our very own Lindsay Graham, are declaring that when the suspect is questioned, there is no need to read his Miranda Rights to him, that he should be declared an “enemy combatant” under military law, that he should not be afforded constitutional rights or an attorney.

Is this the world that we want to live in?  We can do away with the Bill of Rights, with a 2/3 majority vote by the States.  Reading the overwhelming public response online, it seems like the people would be happy to give up our rights.  Majority rules.

As I watched the videos above, I imagined what I would do if my street were filled with armed, armored, paramilitary.  I imagined when they came to my door I would politely decline to admit them.  I wonder what would happen then.  I thought of my children, their fear as paramilitary officers forced us into the street, and their terror if one of these officers, patience worn thin, attacked me or my family for not submitting to their authority.

We are a society of sheep.  A few weeks ago I watched a six-part documentary about Auschwitz, and I wondered at the millions of East German Jews that were led from their homes to be sequestered in ghettos, and then led from the ghettos to be slaughtered at the death camps.  I realized that this is the nature of humanity.  It is the nature of governments to take power and to grow in power, and it is the nature of those who are governed to behave like sheep, to do as we are told, and to trust in government to protect us.

We have a Bill of Rights because the Founding Fathers knew that the government they were creating would grow in power and that it would eventually seek to oppress its citizens.  It is the nature of government.  They knew that the Crown had all of the power and the People had none, so they sought to protect our liberties through the document they created.  One of the very specific abuses that they sought to prevent was soldiers or other government agents entering citizen’s homes without a warrant based upon probable cause, “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


11 Responses to “Wake up America

  • Word Bobby.
    Simmering frogs croak quietly.

    The suspension of law requires, at the least, the intervention of judges.
    Seems that Boston judges had a quiet week.

  • We are watching the death throes of freedom in America. By majority show of hands, who wants the safety of the police state? In Boston, most of them, it appears. Who cares about losing your 2nd Amd rights? The police will take care of you! Sure they will! And remember the origin of the term “lockdown.” It’s from prisons. All prisoners back to your cells. That’s us. Prisoners, kept in our cells, at least in Beantown. And the greater lesson? For a mere 19 year old punk on the run, a city of 7 million was put under virtual curfew and martial law, with a suspension of the Bill of Rights. Another limits test, like Fast and Furious. Test each link in the chain of oppression, before dropping the steel cage.

  • I’m not sure I’d be polite in this situation.

    My reaction would be “Get that f’ing gun out of my face. Don’t tell me to get my hands up. And get the F off my property gefore I am forced to defend myself. You have NO right to be here.”

    • And then you and your loved ones are tasered.

        • Maybe you could sue and win, but take a look at Scott Greenfield’s blawg today–about a man in the Bronx, NY, who was having seizures, his girl friend called for medical help, police and EMS showed up and he was tasered. The trial court awarded him millions, the appeals court reversed–on their unique theory that (in effect) the police could do whatever they chose.

          And then there are many who died after being tasered. It is a dangerous weapon.

          • Yes, it’s terrible that our choices are to bend over and take it up the rear, or fight and risk getting hurt.

            I prefer not to take it up the rear.

          • And that brings us right back to the topic, “Wake Up, America.”

  • Mr. Frederick,

    I cannot tell you how much I relate to your words and the message they contain. I have been thinking the same things and asking colleagues, friends and family members alike what they think about the current state of affairs in this Great Country. Two quotes have come to mind in addition to one a classmate in law school always told me that I’d like to share:

    “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.” Abraham Lincoln

    “The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.” -Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 659 (1961).

    “The Revolution will not be televised” – Gil Scott-Heron

  • Excellent. This belongs with Glenn Greenwald’s (available at OpEdNews.com) and attorney Oscar Michelin’s, and too few others. Without lawyers like you and them, without “voices” that truly educate the public, we will be hopeless and helpless.

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