Your Papers Please: Police Seal Off Neighborhoods; Checking Identifications and Arresting the Disobedient

In the nation’s capitol, the Washington, D.C. police are closing off whole neighborhoods this weekend in a crack down on crimes — and civil liberties. No one will be allowed into areas of the Capitol unless they live their or can show that they are going things like going to church.

Police will determine whether people have a “legitimate purpose” in the area. — a plan that has drawn swift criticism from civil liberties groups.

The plan is not only constitutionally flawed but practically absurd. The police cannot maintain such roadblocks indefinitely. Pedestrians will not be subject to the checkpoints. It seems a publicity stunt being conduct at the cost of the Constitution. If they were really serious, they should have gone to Tibet and learned from the masters.

Remarkably, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier insisted to the media that her record respecting civil liberties speaks for itself. It certainly does. I am one of the lead counsel in the World Bank protest cases where hundreds of people were arrested with probable cause and then many hog-tied with their wrists handcuffed to their ankles. Lanier’s role in the controversy would hardly be an endorsement of her commitment to civil liberties.

The fact that this outrage could occur in our Capitol is simply astonishing — particularly without a hearing in Congress.

For the full story, click here and here.

26 thoughts on “Your Papers Please: Police Seal Off Neighborhoods; Checking Identifications and Arresting the Disobedient”

  1. JR,
    I read what I just wrote and realized that it might be construed as attacking you. That was not my intent, which was merely to react to the murders you described. Please accept my apology for inartfully seeming to attack you. I’ve got a great vocabulary, but I’m unfortunately weak on grammar and syntax.

  2. JR,
    As a social worker I spent the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s walking around the supposedly most dangerous areas of NYC. I was out there alone day and night, with no weapon other than my pen. Bedford Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill/Brownsville, The South Bronx (“Ft. Apache”), Harlem and Spanish Harlem was my beat for 18 years as a field worker. What characterized these areas besides their poverty was that they were where the Afro-Americans and Latinos lived. I’m a blond, Jewish guy who is exactly 6′ tall and not particularly fearsome or muscular. In those 18 years I was never threatened, felt danger or hostility, as I walked down those streets and walked in those slum buildings. I never saw anything more illegal happen than some guy selling “joints” on the sidewalk, or people taking heroin in a “shooting gallery.”

    Yet every night on the local and national news I would see these areas reported as if they were battlegrounds. If it bled, it led. Police would state they couldn’t go out in these areas alone. Where was the disconnect? My guess is that it was easier to portray these
    people of color as thugs, rather than victims of racism and poverty.
    I am far from a naive innocent and much of what I’ve seen in my career would astound most Americans. What I saw though were the effects of poverty and prejudice that forces people to live in dilapidated housing and degrades their humanity. Despite that though, the overwhelming majority of people I met and worked with were just human beings like you and me. The forces of repression in our country use incidents you describe to scare the public, increase their power and bolster their economic hold.

    It’s an old story in this world and America has played its’ part. Our Constitution is an outstanding document and represents a step forward for human beings, it is so sad though that America has failed to live up to the founding vision and that there are many who disregard it, while they profess their phony patriotism.

  3. My experience shows that U.S. citizens don’t have 4th, 5th, and 6th amendment rights anymore. I was put in jail for 5 months by Federal Judge Edward Nottingham without being convicted of a crime (I was never convicted of any crime). I was not found to have disrupted a court room. There was no government or independent prosecutor. Judge Nottingham put me in jail as a favor to my enemies as punishment for my filing in a different court. The prosecutor, Christopher Beall, of Feagre & Benson said that I was not allowed a lawyer, a jury trial or an evidentiary hearing. I wasn’t sentenced either. The FBI now shows I was jailed for “5001 civil contempt” which is not in the U.S. code and not on the list of jailable offenses or sentencing guidelines given to federal judges. Then Judge Nottingham had me extradited across state lines without the required letter to my governor accusing me of crime or high treason. The warrant was blank where the charges are supposed to be.

  4. Michael, you wrote, “Where is the outrage by legislators and journalists towards this unconstitutional behavior?”

    I’ll tell you where it is: it got killed along with seven others in a nine hour period last week. One of the killings–a triple homicide–happened within earshot of DC police who were still unable to arrive in time to catch the killer(s). Six of the killings took place within a two-mile radius in NE DC.

    Desperate times, et cetera. Everyone in DC is just a little scared right now.

  5. rafflaw,

    I sure hope you are correct!!! I am very worried. The economy continues to strangle the poor and middle class. Whole societies have turned upside down only too quickly from a chaotic economy and I think this, as well as an airstrike on Iran will do the trick. As I say though, I hope your anaylsis is the correct one. I’m certain that Bush will have his Pardon Pen brought in special from Texas. (It’s nice and shiny as he never used it to help the people there!)

  6. Jill,
    I was more concerned in the past about elections not happening than I am now. I think Bush and his crowd want out asap so they can beat the indictments that may be on the horizon. I do think Bush will pardon a large group of people before he leaves office. If we can just keep his finger off the “attack Iraq button”!

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