Overkill

January 1, 2011

Can you think of any situation that would be improved if someone were to shoot off automatic weapons in a crowded underground subway station?  I can’t either.

A machine gunBut last night, New Year’s Eve, as Ruth and I were passing through Park Street Station on the way to our train, we were surprised to see two men in fatigues standing at parade rest next to the westbound Green Line tracks with machine guns.

I’m no expert on personal weapons of mass destruction, so I can’t say exactly what they were carrying.  I might have stopped to take a picture, but I preferred to spend as little time as possible in a place where drunks mix with automatic weapons.  Also Massachusetts is one of the states where citizens can be arrested for taking pictures of public employees in public spaces.  So we passed through as quickly as possible and continued down to the Red Line platform, which was free of any military presence.

Ruth thought that the soldiers might have been deployed to counteract some “credible threat”, but I was pretty confident that this was just another case of security theater gone wild. A search this morning didn’t turn up anything in the news, and the authorities are usually not shy about giving vague pronouncements about how they successfully protected us from shadowy undefined  threats.

Boston had promised increased security for First Night.  There were cops and TSA agents loitering near the turnstiles when we got on the Red Line at Alewife.  But why send out soldiers with machine guns, weapons that are great for killing masses of people, but not so good at killing selected individuals in crowds of panicking drunks?  What were they thinking?

What do you think?


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