Friday, 9 July 2004

MBTA board ignores continued protests of passenger stops and searches

Directors of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ignored protesters at their meeting last night in Boston, refusing to debate their new policy of “random” stops and searches of transit passengers.

Meanwhile, with growing national interest and media coverage of the preparations for the Democratic Party National Convention later this month in Boston, the largest demonstration yet against the transit “stop and search” program is being planned for Tuesday morning at Park Street station:




The MBTA is in the process of implementing a new search policy on the “T.” The plan has officers searching “randomly” selected passengers with bags at a handful “T” stations at any given time. This leaves over a hundred stations with no one being searched. If a terrorist saw a line of people being searched at a “T” station he or she would simply walk to the next station and enter the system there, avoiding a search. This policy will delay traffic and subject riders to useless, unneccessary and unconstitutional searches.


Sponsored by the Safe and Free “T” Alliance

We also encourage you all to call Deputy MBTA Police Chief John
Martino at (617) 222-1112

The stops and searches of transit passengers are being justified in the same of “security”, but Rozzie points out the fallacy of that argument in a posting in the “ne.transportation” Usenet newsgroup:

As far as I know, no subway rider has ever caused a terrorist disaster in the United States. But the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst terror activity until 9/11, used a truck.

We read regularly of car bombings taking place in the Middle East, where cars are often used to conceal terrorist weapons. Cars are a much bigger part of daily transportation for the average American than a subway system or a city bus.

While people debate the pros and cons of MBTA bag searches, millions of people are driving around all the time surrounded by unknown vehicles, any one of which could be driven by a terrorist concealing explosives in the trunk or other cargo area.

Doesn’t it make sense that a terrorist who was trying to strike fear into the hearts of as many Americans as possible would threaten their car use, rather than a subway system?

Searching subway riders plays into the myth that bad things happen underground in the big bad city. It’s easy for suburban patriots to tell city people that they have to sacrifice carrying their groceries home, or go without books and laptops on their way to school.

But I wonder how the safety checks would play out if one out of every 8 drivers on the Mass Pike was pulled over for inspection, not just for the convention but presumably every day into the future? How many drivers would put up with leaving a half hour early every single day because of the risk that an inspection could make them late for work?

To make it truly equitable, don’t just stop people on the Pike. Stop everyone at checkpoints as they drive into Malden Center, or East Hadley, or the Rockingham Mall. Stop, frisk, check the trunk, show your ID, ask the kids where they’re going. How long would Americans put up with this? If the answer is “not long,” it should not be inflicted on subway riders either. There’s been the same amount of terrorism on the Orange Line as there has been at the Wal-Mart in Walpole.

[Addendum, 10 July 2004: Gary McGath spotted this first-hand account of the MBTA Board meeting as well as this new statement by the T about the search policy.]

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 9 July 2004, 16:11 ( 4:11 PM)
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