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News :: DNC : Human Rights
Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
26 Jun 2004
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If Boston residents haven't realized that we live in a culture of fear - they will during the Democratic National Convention. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has released a "Security Statement" that outlines using fear tactics to allow police and transportation authorities to search bags and personal possessions during the Democratic National Convention. This policy comes on top of similar measures that the MBTA has announced that it is undertaking that allow other measures such as allowing "police officers to randomly search T riders' bags" to protect riders from "bombs" and "terrorism". The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild (NLG) has provided a series of resources for people who are concerned about this violation of American rights. The NLG has provided a simple explanation of your legal rights while riding the T or other public transportation in Boston.
If Boston residents haven't realized that we live in a culture of fear - they will during the Democratic National Convention. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has released a "Security Statement" that uses fear tactics to allow police and transportation authorities to search bags and personal possessions during the Democratic National Convention. This policy comes on top of similar measures that the MBTA has announced it is undertaking that allow other measures such as allowing "police officers to randomly search T riders' bags" to protect riders from "bombs" and "terrorism".

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild (NLG) has provided a series of resources for people who are concerned about this violation of our basic American rights. The NLG has also provided a simple explanation of your legal rights while riding the T or taking a Boston bus that includes factual tips such as:

* The police can ask you to identify yourself and do a pat down for weapons (often called a "stop & frisk").
* The police cannot stop you because of your race, ethnicity or religion.
* The police cannot go through your wallet, ask for immigration papers, or check on the books and newspapers you read.
* If you are selected for a baggage search, you have the right to tell the MBTA police that you "do not concent to a search".
* If you refuse to allow a search, you may be asked to leave the MBTA station/train/bus/terminal.
* If you do not leave at the request of a MBTA police, you may be arrested for trespassing.


The National Lawyer's Guild has also created buttons for T users to wear during their daily commute that protest this blatant violation of civil rights. The bright red "I DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH" button is available for download, and will also be distributed at certain T stations during the week of June 28th. The MBTA has also organized a "booklet" to explain the various planned closures and detours during the DNC, and that specifies the expected violations of rider's privacy.

Since the World Trade Organization(WTO) protests in Seattle in 1999, police and other authorities have pursued increasingly dynamic ways of violating people's rights in the name of "security". While many people are concerned about the threat of terrorism, especially in the face of certain U.S. foreign policy decision and military decisions made during the last 2 years, they are also growing increasingly concerned about increased Homeland "Security", gross violations of citizen's privacy through legislation such as the Patriot Act, and the rising number of intentional examples of violations of civil rights in relation to the excercise of free speech.

Four years ago, in the City of Philadelphia, unconstitutional laws were passed in anticipation of the anti-protester sentiment (RNC). These laws demonstrated enormous anti-protester sentiment including: providing the RNC with a "right of first refusal" special permit for more than 100 city venues including streets and parks, Philly police illegally photographing protesters in other cities for RNC "security", an FBI announcement that protesters had become a focus of intelligence operations, police infiltration of protester "affinity groups", illegal searches and harrassment of protesters by the authorities, illegal police entrance without warrants to buildings housing activist organizations, and extensive abuse of protesters in Philly jails, including sexual abuse, excessive force, overcrowding, and denial of medicine, food, and sleep. By the end of the protest 420 people were arrested on street corners, bicycles, at the protests and outside of the protest areas and legally charged under a combination of reasons such as risking catastrophe, criminal mischief, and even conspiracy.

Compaired to this list of excesses, the search of people and their posessions on the T sounds like a simple tightening of security. But it isn't. There is documentary proof that "profiling" is a common occurance at security checkpoints. Profiling encompasses a range of descriptions, but the most commonly harrassed individuals in 21st century America tend to be: blacks, Muslims or people whose appearance is described as "Middle Eastern", alternative youths, and activists. While many experienced activists are aware of their civil rights and violations thereof, for those people who have not experienced an invasion of privacy on this scale may soon wake up to the realities of the police state. The National Lawyer's Guild sums it up this MBTA decision as:

Random searches will not increase our safety. Instead, the T will illegally violate the privacy of innocent travelers.

And if you combine this deceptively "simple" violation with the combination of other legal obstacles to activism and the Constitutionally protected right for people to protest - including the new applications for rally permits, local and other Police spying on activist groups, and original plans for a penned and fenced "free speech zone" with limited capacity near the Fleet Center - these simple preliminary violations of our rights as citizens do not bode well for the week of the DNC. We already know that local and state police, and even the National Guard, are being activated for our safety during the Convention. We know that access to our workplaces, our everyday train and bus routes, and even some of our homes will be blocked by supposed DNC security. The interstate highway will be shut down, there is a no-fly zone around the city, there has even been a proposed "curtain" to literally block the Fleet Center from view...

Apparently, what these "security" measures don't protect us from are violations of our basic Constitutional rights. And Boston residents who haven't realized the actuality of living in a culture of fear will soon have a daily reminder on their commute to work - nobody is safe.

This article was updated on June 27, 2004 by IMC Editor S. Eppler.

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
27 Jun 2004
Question?
Can they ask you for an ID, or only ask you your name. If there is no ID, can they ask your for the correct spelling or DOB etc? Do we have to assist them in finding more info about us?
Thanks
Re: Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
27 Jun 2004
Good question, but you're not likely to get much of an answer here unless some Guild lawyers or others who've been working on this happen to read it. I'd suggest contacting the Natinoal Lawyers' Guild. Their website is at http://www.nlgmass.org, and other cnotact info should be there.
Re: Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
04 Jul 2004
SHUT UP! BE HAPPY! THE NEIGHBORHOOD POLICE WILL BE BY IN THE MORNING TO GIVE YOU YOUR PROZAC.

DO NOT CONFORM!
Re: Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
25 Jul 2004
An even better question is: where does the law stand ont he search of someone wearign the aforementioned button? Especially soemone being singled oot for search because of the button, which I do not consider to be an unlikely scenario?
Re: Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
27 Jul 2004
y isn't this happining at at tha republican convention is it because they control the government and they want 2 stop all/ slow down democratic protests this will only force more miltancy out of those that were formely peacful
Naalij Blak
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Re: Security on the T & Criminalization of Dissent for the DNC
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