Today seems to be a day when I’m being vindicated for stances I’ve taken that have been criticized. A while back, after writing a post about how Republican paranoia was turning Washington, DC into an armed camp, I was taken to task by a right-wing blogger who claimed that he had been to DC recently and that nothing in the article I cited was true. Unfortunately for that blogger, DC city officials are so upset about what’s happening to their city that they’re taking to the streets to protest.
[I]n the eyes of local officials, security-obsessed federal authorities may kill the city before America’s enemies get the chance.Furious at the latest street closings and checkpoints, imposed by Senate edict Monday night, city officials took to the streets Tuesday to express their outrage that congressional law enforcement officials were turning Washington into a fortress without regard for the people who live and work there — or the officials elected to govern it.
“We concede this certainly makes it easier for security,” Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s congressional representative, said as she stood on 1st Avenue N.E., now closed between the Capitol and Union Station. “You want to really make it easier? Close down all the streets! Close down the city! You can make it real safe.”
A member of the Homeland Security Committee, Norton emphasized her commitment to fighting terrorism. “I recognize this is perhaps the highest-target city in the world,” said Norton, a Democrat who serves on committees but is not entitled to vote on the House floor because the District of Columbia is not a state. “But we have to remember that we are fighting to preserve security and freedom, not one or the other.”
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams, a normally low-key former accountant, raised his voice when meeting with reporters Tuesday.
“This is a living, breathing city; this isn’t just a dead, static piece of concrete,” he said, straining to be heard above the noise of an ambulance siren a block away. “We can’t continue to close streets without doing death to commerce in this city, to tourism in this city, to a tax base in this city that provides all the services people need…. If someone hiccups in this city, traffic already backs up into Maryland and Virginia. You start closing streets like this, it will be backed up to Delaware.”
The WaPo reports that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better–if it ever does.
Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed that additional precautions next to the Treasury Department headquarters have been under discussion since Sunday, when the Bush administration announced a heightened terror threat to financial institutions in Washington, New York City and New Jersey. A decision could come as soon as today.Scores of U.S. Capitol Police officers closed portions of First Street NE and set up roadblocks around Capitol Hill, scrutinizing car compartments, boarding Metro buses and asking some drivers to show identification. Across town at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank headquarters in Foggy Bottom — the two specific Washington sites identified as terrorist targets in Sunday’s announcement — police activity was comparatively subdued. No-parking signs had been posted, a bomb-sniffing dog stood by and a few cars queued near Pennsylvania Avenue NW with trunks opened for inspection.
The checkpoints slowed traffic, particularly during the morning rush hour, but the blockades seemed to function smoothly, generating more weariness than complaints.
“From a security perspective and a traffic flow, I think it went very well,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer said. “We were well-prepared, and traffic is light in August.”
But the curtailed access to major roads around key symbolic and functional centers in Washington marked a dramatic acceleration of the creeping encroachment of security measures in the nation’s capital in recent years. District leaders decried the steps yesterday, pronouncing them draconian and an overreaction whose legacy would be felt for years.
“We are fighting to preserve both security and freedom, not one or the other,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said at a noon news conference with Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) on Capitol Hill. “We’re not going to accept the closing of the city.”
Even D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey complained about the actions, rare criticism leveled at his former chief deputy and close friend, Gainer. “I’m not pleased at all with it,” Ramsey said. “We weren’t part of any kind of planning. They just told us what they were going to do.”
What’s it going to take to make the Senate Republicans feel safe? Are we going to have tanks rolling through the streets of Washington as they used to in Prague and Moscow? Will they pass laws requiring citizens to carry identification papers at all times which will be examined constantly by the military at street-corner checkpoints? Will they, as Ms Norton and Mr Williams fear, simply shut the city down in order to protect themselves? When does it end? Where, finally, will they draw the line?
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.–Benjamin Franklin