Sunday, June 15, 2008

Soweto, DC

In an effort to "curb crime", DC police are going to cordon off entire neighborhoods with police checkpoints and require anyone coming there to provide identification and a "legitimate reason" to be there, or face arrest. They had wanted to perform door to door warrentless searches, but are not allowed to.

Yes, really. In the capital of the United States.

When I lived in Arlington, I used to love visiting some of the small bookstores in those parts of DC that lay outside of the shopping and government districts. They had really great books of African American history that I never saw anywhere else and that talked about things I had never heard of. Occasionally, police would ask me what I was doing in these neighborhoods, it being widely believed that a white kid from Arlington in downtown "chocolate city" was there to buy drugs. Would I go now, having to enter a police checkpoint and prove that I was really going to buy books? Nope. Not on your life. So, instead of taking those police officers and having them "walk the beat", DC is going to use them in a way that destroys the local economy.

Yes, really.

Never underestimate the stupidity of the DC police force and government. I remember, back in high school, when go-go music got big in DC. You might expect the DC government to be happy about a locally-created style of music that was gaining national exposure and creating an entire cottage industry in the heart of the city. Nope. They waged a battle to close down the go-go clubs in order to prevent the violence that occurred in some clubs. And, of course, I'm no apologist for violence, but damn, there has to be a better way to solve the problem than setting up mini police states.


Holly said...

Also, there is a particularly seedy element of that cordon thing, which is that they can ask people on the street to show ID. Since when do we need to show ID to walk on the street? What a waste of time, energy, and community. Especially as it will do neither Jack nor Shit to fix the problem. And probably lead to some dead cops.

narrator said...

I sometimes wish I could forcefeed the American public a few straight months of those "occupied Europe" films from WWII, or those Eastern European-set Cold War films. Why is everything the US claimed to be fighting against all those years ("carrying papers" - checkpoints - internal spying - building walls) now American policy both internally and externally?

Sometimes a society, no matter how enlightened in origin, loses its way so badly that it requires global action to bring it into line. I'm not saying other nations should invade the US or treat it like Nazi Germany, but I do know that it disgusts me to see European leaders welcome GWB to their nations. America's current executive leadership should be as welcome around the world as Robert Mugabe.

Rufus said...

I am definitely glad to see that both Obama and McCain are vowing to roll back some of the bat-shit crazy police state tactics at the federal level.

In the case of DC though, it's not the feds that decide these things; it's the city government and police force. What I'd like to see happen is more outrage across the country over this, like there was over the similarly ill-conceieved gun laws they tried to pass. But, I get the feeling that people are just learning to be okay with shit like this.

Brian Dunbar said...

But, I get the feeling that people are just learning to be okay with shit like this.

Indeed, the D.C. Police Chief was on the radio saying that the residents of the area were just fine with it.

On the one hand, hey, guys, police state? On the other .. I used to live in SE D.C. [1] so .. some parts are nice, some are seedy some downright dangerous. If I was Joe Citizen and had to live there and if this kept the gangs off my door step .. my tune might change.

[1] Sorta. I was stationed at Marine Barracks there. So I lived IN South East but not really _in_ South East. I never felt worried for my safety, but neither did I foolishly venture into really dangerous territory. Plus I was 20 and a Marine and convinced that if I couldn't outfight danger I sure as snot could outrun it.

Holly said...

Narrator.... the problem isn't that Americans haven't heard of this stuff in that context. The problem is that they just don't believe it's happening to them. America Wouldn't Do That, It Would Be Wrong! Which is often the problem. It's that thing about turning up the heat slowly instead of dropping a frog into boiling water.

Rufus, it being the city government doesn't really change anything. Especially not when that city is the capital city. Sets an example and all that.

One thing I find especially strange and objectionable is that the police are NOT on duty to protect you-the-citizen. That's been to court so many times, it's just not what the police do. So they're there to--abstractly--Prevent Crime. Meaning, if there isn't a crime, they've done well. If there is a crime, and some violence happens, well, the citizens should've been more careful.

Brian, being 20 and a Marine is probably the best choice. If only the people of DC would do more of that, the gangs would be SOL... :)

Brian Dunbar said...

One thing I find especially strange and objectionable is that the police are NOT on duty to protect you-the-citizen.

This is reasonable. There are too many of us, and too few of them.

If the police were legally responsible for individual protection we'd either see a lot more police and far more intrusive practices than we do ... or the municipalities would be bankrupt from damage claims.

Practically speaking, the police are made up of mostly good guys, so they do what they can. If you feel an absolute need for a personal guardian (not you, Holly, the abstract you) then move to a small town. The cops have a smaller jurisdiction to police and can take the time to get to know the place. At times there isn't a whole lot going on: if you yell for help it should come promptly.

And .. since help can't come soon enough, sometimes, the gun laws tend to be less strict.

Rufus said...

Well, I've known a lot of people who lived in DC, and I actually dated a girl for a while who lived in the worst part of DC (or any city) that I've ever seen. My understanding from them was that the police were scarce until someone got shot, or maybe they'd make the occasional drive through. But, for the most part, they never saw them. So, what I'm guessing happened is that people have been complaining and the city said "oh shit, we'd better look like we're doing something!"

I just think it's the wrong something to do. Honestly, if they're trying to put more cops in the area, having them walk the beat and have more contact with the residents just seems like it would be a better idea. It would be better for the citizens and the small businesses I'd imagine.