Police State D.C.

Revolutionary Worker #1266, January 30, 2005, posted at rwor.org

Thousands of troops stand ready. Credential checks, bag searches, confiscation of contraband; all occupy security forces manning the checkpoints. The rumble of helicopters fills the sky. Dogs roam,sniffing through the streets, held back by flak-jacketed men. Across town in a security bunker, technicians monitor surveillance cameras that have been positioned strategically throughout the city.

No this is not the "Green Zone" in U.S.-ccupied Baghdad, and it isn’t the border at Gaza City. This was Washington, DC on Inauguration Day.

If you were to take an aerial view of the Inaugural, you would have seen a police-state bazaar—riot police, state police, and D.C. police, traffic banned in huge swaths of downtown, cameras whirring and surveilling anyone walking around.

Meantime, in the subways, transit police trawled for "suspicious" riders. The Washington Post reported they were on the lookout for certain characteristics and patterns, like people "who avoid eye contact or loitered in the stations."

Further outside town, at a command post in northern Virginia, giant plasma screens showed live video feed from helicopters and surveillance cameras. For added measure, officials had access to three-dimensional maps of downtown D.C.

The official parade route itself was a huge jail-like holding pen—accessible only through clearing checkpoints. Among those working the checkpoint were Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, the agency responsible for airport security.

Inside the parade area people were surrounded by 12-foot tight-meshed metal fencing on one side and a phalanx of various stripes of police on the other. This viewing area was then subdivided into sections cut off from one another so that once inside there was a narrow corridor of a block or two to move around.

All this was obviously geared toward keeping groups of people/protestes separated. And the security as a whole — despite all the talk of "keeping things safe"—was clearly aimed at preventing demonstrators from freedom of movement and voice.

In late December the press was invited to the Washington, DC. Armory to hear Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman give a security orientation as he walked across a 40-by-60-foot plastic map of downtown D.C. The general, dressed in combat fatigues, was making one thing very clear: the military would have a prominent role in inaugural plans.

In fact 7,000 U.S. troops were deployed for the event (augmenting 6.000 cops of various stripes). Among those—a Marine Corps unit, Air Force pilots, and members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment. Along with this, "war games" were held on Capitol Hill by security forces in order to practice various scenarios.

On the day itself, military troops were less visible on the street (likely being held in reserve). But overall, this open use of the military to primarily police a demonstration signified an open declaration that the military will be used for domestic purposes.

The recent Democratic and Republican political conventions showed to what degree things have changed in this rolling juggernaut of war and repression, and what is rapidly becoming the standard.

The specter of mass protest against Bush and Company was met by authorities with sensational reports equating protest with terrorism. The repressive staple of barricaded/penned-in rally sites used to corral protests was transformed into protest "cages" akin to Guantánamo Bay holding tanks. Marches and civil disobedience that had not gotten permits were met with preemptive arrest and preventative detention by the NYPD.

Now with the 2nd Inaugural of Bush, comes the introduction of another layer, another level of repressive measures. Methods field-tested at airports are introduced onto city streets. A parade route is transformed into a open air jail. And finally, the military is widely involved in domestic policing.

The fact that all this happened in the context of a so-called "celebration of democracy" reveals how this hypocritical and tyrannical "democracy" is enforced with brute force.