Boston March Will Protest Random Searches at Subway Stations

January 30th, 2013

Random searches violate the Constitution specifically. Probable cause or a warrant should be required before a government official demands the authority to search a citizen. This process was chosen, not just because it protects rights, but because it is the most effective way to actually catch criminals. It’s more productive to search the bag of someone engaging in criminal behavior than it is to waste time and energy looking through everyone’s items.

In concert with the TSA, DHS, and the Transit Police, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been conducting random searches on Boston and Cambridge public transportation passengers since 2006. In response, a local group has called for a protest march against the policy. A Facebook page has been created on behalf of the event, and it has already attracted significant local media coverage.

What’s the Fuss?

When the TSA first began conducting random pat downs at airports, people were outraged. In response, officials argued that citizens could simply avoid airline travel if they didn’t want to be searched. Over time, the same types of search methodologies began appearing in lots of other places. In Tennessee, TSA agents began pulling over commercial truck drivers on the highway and searching their vehicles. Across the country, TSA and DHS agents have been spotted working NFL games and other big events.

Now, the unconstitutional searches are spreading to bus and subway stations across the US. The original argument (that one could simply just not fly) used to justify the searching of airline passengers falls apart when the same methodologies are used on ground-based public transportation systems. Lower income individuals sometimes do not have a car and are thus reliant on public transportation. What is their opt-out? Are they supposed to just walk everywhere if they don’t want to be subjected to privacy violations? As these security theater programs creep from the airport to the bus and subway station, the argument that there is an “optional” nature to TSA-style searches quickly falls apart.

The March

Occupy Boston distributed a press release on its website detailing the specifics of the protest. According to the text, “Civil rights activists will gather across the city on Groundhog Day to demand an end to random, un-Warranted bag checks in subways by TSA, DHS, and Transit Police. Simultaneous marches will commence at noon at five locations (Kenmore, Harvard, Ruggles, Lechmere, and South Station) and travel different routes through Boston and Cambridge to converge at 2 p.m. for a rally at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common.”

Boston, famous for its 18th century Tea Party protest which was a defining step on the path to American independence, will once again host an important protest against abusive policy. Based on the number of committed attendees on the Facebook event page for the march, it looks like the turnout will be significant. With a large enough rally, Boston’s civil liberties activists could generate serious public support for their cause.

Will the TSA see its shadow on Groundhog Day this year?

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.