An unsettling story came to me earlier this week. The source stated that two ACTUP SF activists were arrested by FBI agents. Warrants were issued, computers and other items were seized, and the other ACTUP SF activists were a bit dazed by the precision quickness of the FBI.
Several days later, coroprate newpapers and Web sites reported the success of Operation FALCON. They drew their sources straight from the U.S. Marshals’ press release and, in some cases, locally embedded (see the Philly.com link; may need a subscription) with the officers (see the Philly.com link; may need a subscription). Operation FALCON has been herelded as the largest round-up of fugitives in the history of the U.S.A.
I can’t help but connect the local incident with the activists to the nation-wide Police sting on all kinds of “fugitives” and “felons”. Discussing this connection made me consider whether or not there were other activists rounded up in this national sweep that AG Gonzalez did not disclose to the public. I also wonder if immigrants and activists of color were targeted in this operation.
The use of widespread Homeland Security type measures also point to historical sweeps made by the Soviets and the Nazis, causing one who criticizes the federal government to give pause. In recent history, many totalitarian nationalistic governments arrested, executed, and imprisioned the opposition and the outspoken. It still happens today, with Southeast Asia and South America being examples. One can think “If it happens elsewhere, then why not in the United States?” though our democracy and constitution should protect us from that.
Some of the “fugitives” and “felons” probably deserved to be captured, but to make a huge PR campaign out of it stinks of propeganda for flag-waving Americans. At a time when President Bush’s ratings are in the gutter there’s nothing like a huge police operation to satisfy the masses. And though I don’t necessarily agree with ACTUP SF’s beliefs, I do think they are entitled to expressing them and performing civil disobedience for them. That’s what you’re entitled to do in a free country. Let’s hope that this huge PR police sweep isn’t a sign of things to come. If so, watch your back and know who your friends are.