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Friday, April 26, 2013

Did America Overlook the Threats of “Martial Law” in Response to the Boston Bomber?

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Was Boston’s response to the bombing a bit extreme?
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Imagine a city in which SWAT teams, helicopters, armed vehicles, and soldiers in full gear flood the streets, while over one million people sit fearful in their homes under lockdown.  This was Boston last Friday, April 19, under a lockdown ordered by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  While this “martial law” was ordered in good intentions with the purpose of finding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a co-conspirator in the Boston Marathon bombing, did the government go overboard, or was this what was required to end the manhunt?  While many of the actions taken by it may have been necessary, is America overlooking the fact that the orders in Boston were perhaps one of the largest cases of martial law in American history?
Was this really necessary?
Image Credit: Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images
Perhaps the most frightening thing about the government’s response to this tragedy was the way in which they conducted the manhunt.  SWAT teams and armored vehicles filled neighborhoods, as one-by-one, people received knocks on their door, with SWAT teams entering to search their homes without a warrant of any kind.  This raises the question, should the government be able to suspend the privacy rights of citizens in times like this, or should the Constitution be supreme?  The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that all searches must be warranted or with probable cause, but may the government suspend these rights of the people in the course of a manhunt?  

Over one million people were locked down throughout Boston last Friday.  Businesses were shutdown.  Schools were closed.  Residents were left without cellular service.  All of this was conducted in the hopes of preventing another attack, but the economic costs to the city were tremendous.  Bloomberg Businessweek estimates that the shutdown is estimated to have cost the city $333 million.  Brad Plumer at Wonkblog places this estimate even higher, stating that it may have cost about $1 billion, seeing as the annual GDP of Boston is $326 billion.

This brings me to the main point of my argument.  By shutting down an entire city for a day, we are essentially fulfilling the wishes of these terrorists.  As defined in Google Dictionary, terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.  Following this definition, the main goals of a terrorist are not to kill a few citizens; they are to make an entire country cower in fear after they kill a few citizens.  Therefore, by shutting down an entire city for a day, the Boston police have fulfilled the goals of the terrorists of instilling fear in the people.  In addition, through media coverage of this event and manhunt, fear was spread like wildfire through the people.  Quickly, two small bombs exploded not only in one city, but in the hearts of all of America.

By closing the bustling city of Boston for nearly an entire day, we only made the terrorists more successful in their aims. I understand that some measures were necessary to find these sick brothers, but shutting an entire city down for a day seems a bit extreme.  If measures similar to those taken by Boston are taken every time someone carries out a terroristic action or threat, will militarism of cities become a norm in society?

The Boston Marathon bombing was a tragic day in American history that left many Americans and myself sick to the stomach.  It’s terrible to think that two men’s sick actions ended three lives and injured hundreds of more.  My heart is with the people of Boston, and I hope that no other city has to suffer from the events that occurred there last week. However, while I am sorrowful for the victims of this event, a few questions should not be disregarded.  Is this the way that we want to respond to attacks on America?  Is there a way that we can prevent things like this from happening without inflicting the rights of innocent Americans?  Do we wish for the use of military helicopters, armored vehicles, and SWAT teams to become a norm during events like this?

Clearly, this is an occurrence that takes much thought.  If you have any reasons why you believe or do not believe that cities should be placed in states of “martial law” while the threat of terrorism is prominent, please share your input in the comment section below.

Visit these sources for more information:
How Much Will The Boston Lockdown Cost? - The Atlantic Cities
Thoughts on the Boston Lockdown - NY Times
The Boston Lockdown and the Bill of Rights -

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