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I have lived and worked in the DC metro area for more than 50 years. I have seen or joined numerous large demonstrations prompted by civil rights, the Vietnam War, abortion, and/or the Tea Party. I recall the 1968 riots after the assassination of MLK and saw the aftermath of the more recent Floyd rioting.
With the exception of the 1968 Riots, I have never seen such a comprehensive response by authorities as is currently underway in anticipation of the Biden inauguration. Never this far in advance for anything. Downtown streets are closed and every Metro train station within a 100-block area is to be closed a full week in advance of the event. Downtown is almost empty and (mostly unmarked) cars with flashing lights are blocking the single lane entrance to the affected roads each with large concrete barriers. There are now actually more police on the street on K Street than civilian pedestrians.
Yesterday, our office needed a service call for the A/C in the computer server room. (We are aberrant–we almost never close and we show up despite weather, riots, fascism, and/or pandemics and the existence of Zoom and Teams.) To arrange that visit, we needed to email a service request in writing so the company could print it out to be shown to the police to prove the tech has a valid reason for entering the cordoned zone. His truck was still banned so he had to park outside the zone and come on foot carrying tools and testing equipment. He was permitted to do that even though he fit the new dangerous profile: a working-class white guy in work boots and jeans–with tools.
The endless government COVID closure and the death of numerous downtown businesses killed off by lockdowns and looters have reduced commuter traffic to a trickle. But yesterday, there was a backup for Virginians crossing Key Bridge and expecting to use the Whitehurst Freeway and K Street to get downtown. They were instead routed northward in a bizarre detour around Washington Circle.
Huge white concrete barriers are everywhere. And where there are openings just wide enough for one vehicle, there are police stationed. Pedestrians are now discouraged from going past the VA towards Lafayette Square and the White House from the north.
In April 1968 when I a teenager, my father decided to take me with him to the DC Courthouse at night as the MLK riots were subsiding and the entire DC bar had been mobilized to handle arraignments of the thousands arrested. It was to be a teaching moment in a historical event. My father was a nonstop teacher.
At the place where Pennsylvania Avenue merges into M Street, there were huge X-shaped barriers and barbed wire, military vehicles, and blindingly bright floodlights. We slowly approached the center of the checkpoint with guns pointed at us. An officer approached the vehicle to ask why we were in violation of the curfew. It felt like a movie scene entering or leaving some sector in Berlin in 1970. That event is the only thing I can recall that is comparable in scale and scope to what is being set up now.
The security measures have been disconcerting and enhance existing fear. DC and the surrounding counties are bluer than most places other than Boston or Portland and the over-the-top pre-emptive measures by police have enhanced the widely held latent fears that hordes of mythological toothless gun owners are coming to restore their deposed führer. The prevailing belief appears to be that the cops would not be doing this if there was not some known massive threat. The MAGA trogs must be even more dangerous than was previously thought. It is a self-reinforcing idea fomented by actual morons in response to a threat posed by largely imaginary morons.
Once Biden is in the White House, why would the threat recede and the measures lessened? The imagined hordes are still out there and even harder to detect for being imaginary. Sheer inertia in government is such that it will not readily restore the freedoms we began to sacrifice in order to fight the War on Terror and then even lost even more to fight COVID.
Proof of loyalties untainted by inciteful (conservative) online activity, proof of lawful purpose, and proof of vaccinations just to get across town sounds like something in a Communist state 50 years ago but it appears to be headed our way. The weird guy in the Viking horns and painted face who sat in Pelosi’s chair is now a kind of Emmanuel Goldstein. And now, our betters will soon tell us that vigilance and loyalty to suppress the anti-party must be absolute.Published in