[Mb-civic] A dark vision of things to come? (hopefully not!)

ean at sbcglobal.net ean at sbcglobal.net
Wed Sep 22 20:40:57 PDT 2004

The Rise of the Homeland Security State

Fortress Big Apple, Revisited

by Nick Turse; TomDispatch; September 07, 2004

Prior to the Republican National Convention, I thought I knew all about
the militarization of Manhattan -- the transformation of the island into a
"homeland-security state" -- and about New York City as the paradigm for
the security culture that increasingly grips American society. After all,
I wrote about it in "Fortress Big Apple." It turns out I didn't know the
half of it. Only after writing that piece did I discover that the New York
Police Department had purchased two experimental sound weapons known as
Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) which I had once described in writing
about U.S. experimental weapons research in Iraq. I had termed the
deployment of an LRAD here during the convention "improbable" -- yet there
it was out on the very same streets I was walking. I also looked out my
window and caught sight of the ultimate blending of corporatism and the
police-state --the Fuji blimp -- now emblazoned with the logo: "NYPD."
This spy-in-the-sky, outfitted with the latest in video-surveillance
equipment, had been loaned free of charge to the police all week long.

But even finding out about these new high-tech tools of the homeland
security-state didn't make things clear to me; nor did the ever-present
roar of helicopter rotors as those of us in the streets during the RNC
were surveilled from above; or even when Brendan Galligan of the NYPD
Aviation Unit bluntly told a reporter from the local ABC TV affiliate:
"I'm looking for any kind of crime on the grou[nd]. In this case, we're
looking for roving mobs of people traveling in unison, that might indicate
some sort of problem for the ground troops." "People traveling in unison"
a crime? "Ground troops"? I should have fully understood then, but I

I didn't quite get it when I saw the stone-faced feds out on the streets
with those ever-present ear-pieces piping in commands from who knows
where; nor as I scuttled between concrete barricades and metal fences in
the area around Madison Square Garden while remote cameras tracked my
every move; nor when a march I was in was flanked by a phalanx of
bicycle-riding police; nor when a corps of plainclothes cops on scooters
trolled the streets near Times Square. You would think that I would have
understood it when the peaceful group of activists I was with were pushed
off the sidewalk by police in front of us, while the cops in back ordered
us onto the sidewalk; or when, left with no options, we tried to escape by
crossing Broadway only to have some of our number caught in the NYPD's
literal dragnet -- rolls of orange plastic netting which were repeatedly
unfurled all across the city, snagging protesters, press, legal observers,
pedestrians, and bystanders alike. I can't understand why I didn't get it
when I looked up from watching some cops press a man's head to the
pavement to see a hoard of police on horseback heading down the street
towards me; or when officers from the NYPD's Technical Assistance Response
Unit (TARU) filmed me, apparently for walking in a park or perhaps for
what I might do, prompting a young woman to sidle up next to me and
whisper "they're tailing you" --making me wonder, was the warning sincere
or could she be with them too?

I witnessed the fleets of black SUVs with police escorts roar down
virtually empty city streets near the Madison Square Garden bubble. On
numerous occasions, I saw flatbed police trucks filled with the very
interlocking metal barriers that a judge had ruled could no longer be used
to pen in protesters (as the NYPD had been doing for about a decade) --
and I saw those metal barricades pressed back into action on multiple
occasions. I witnessed a black van door slide open, revealing
tactical-gear clad troops of some sort, brandishing automatic rifles. I
witnessed cops and feds on rooftops with binoculars and cameras trained on
me and/or my compatriots. I saw cops peering through the near-blacked out
windows of unmarked cars and noticed the NYPD's "radio emergency patrol
vehicles" wherever protesters seemed to gather.

I repeatedly walked through gauntlets of blue-uniformed cops and white-
shirted brass to and from the subway in Union Square Park -- where the
three guys in jeans and untucked button-down shirts (which every so often
showed the outlines of their guns) graciously smiled one evening as I
snapped a picture of their undercover activities. Much less jolly were the
secret service agents, one clad in polo shirt and khaki pants, who moved
in behind me prompting a legal observer at an event to collect my name and
contact information in case I should be snatched off the street; even less
jolly was the beefy NYPD officer with no visible badge or name tag who
made it a point to shove me as I attempted to take a picture of an orange-
net arrest before offering a less-than-convincing "excuse me!" as he
strode away.

Police vans with netting over the windows; helmeted riot gear-clad cops;
NYPD "paddy wagons"; constant sirens; cops who shoved at us with their
night-sticks; armed park police filming with camcorders; radios crackling
information to uniformed officers outside almost any subway stop, on
street corners, on subway platforms, and on the trains themselves; even
those menacing, or sometimes just weary-looking, ultimate conscripts of
the homeland security army, the police attack dogs on street patrol,
didn't fully hammer home the reality of Fortress Big Apple. What did was
the 10' by 20' chain-link pen with razor wire over the top that I found
myself in after being arrested for the crime of trying "to change trains,"
as a Washington Post reporter wrote, after sitting "silently on a subway
train going uptown" to "protest deaths in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and

The floors of the pen were covered with a layer of grime -- a mix of what
might have been oil, grease, battery acid, transmission fluid, antifreeze,
diesel fuel, and possibly leaded gasoline; the pipes overhead gave the
appearance of incomplete asbestos abatement; the rotting food and old milk
cartons behind the detention pens helped to further drive it home. Like so
many others, I was illegally arrested and taken to a makeshift detention
center set up by the city especially for the protesters. It was the old
municipal bus garage which bears the name "Marine and Aviation Pier 57"
but has now been dubbed "Guantanamo on the Hudson." Of course, being
incarcerated in New York's own Gitmo (before being packed off to central
booking and then a cell in the infamous "Tombs") rather than in America's
"offshore archipelago of injustice" -- Abu Ghraib, the actual Guantanamo,
or "Camp Justice" on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, to name but
a few means I fared infinitely better than most victims of America's
security culture run amok. Still, the visible abrasions on my wrists from
the plastic cuffs (fastened so purposefully tight) that restricted the
blood flow to my hands while I was in transit to jail aboard a corrections
bus, or the tears of the woman in a cage on the same bus suffering from
also too-tight hand restraints (which left the cops in a joking mood), do
show the bare traces of the Abu Ghraib mentality alive in America's
security forces, at home as well as abroad.

Of course, in communities of color and poor neighborhoods, such tactics,
and worse, are old hat - as my cell-mates behind the arraignment courtroom
were quick to point out. But now the NYPD is field-testing new tactics and
tools to use against us all. Perhaps most distressing, they've established
a precedent and the tacit acceptance of the public as well. Most New
Yorkers either left town or failed to vigorously protest the chilling
effect of the growth of the homeland-security complex.

I heard first hand of seemingly baseless preemptive arrests and
intimidation by federal agents -- an activist en route to work grabbed off
the street by the feds; another apparently tailed by a black SUV and
shadowed by plainclothes agents. The question is: Will this stop now that
the RNC has left town or will it simply become the accepted way of doing
things in New York City and elsewhere around the country?

The RNC gave the NYPD, coordinating with the feds, a perfect opportunity
to stockpile weapons systems, high-tech equipment, and surveillance
devices. It allowed them to refine, perfect, and implement new tactics
(someday, perhaps, to be thought of as the "New York model") for use
penning in or squelching dissent. It offered them the chance to write up a
playbook on how citizens' legal rights and civil liberties may be
abridged, constrained, and violated at their discretion. In short, it gave
them a free hand to transform New York City into a true homeland security

Nick Turse writes regularly on the military-industrial-entertainment
complex. He was jailed by the homeland-security state when he dared to
ride the subway with a "war dead" placard around his neck
(http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/images/I51190-2004Aug31). He asks
you to consider donating to the NYC Legal Work Fund Collective for RNC
Arrestees and/or the National Lawyers Guild who saved him more than once
during the protests.

Copyright C2004 Nicholas Turse

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