Chicago Marathon featured warrantless bag searches along 26-mile track, unprecedented security

Anti-terrorism agents tout rifles in front of the disarmed public at the 2013 Chicago Marathon. (Source: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)
Anti-terrorism agents tout rifles in front of the disarmed public at the 2013 Chicago Marathon.  (Source: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)
Anti-terrorism agents tout rifles in front of the disarmed public at the 2013 Chicago Marathon. (Source: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

CHICAGO, IL — Continuing the trend of mass-suspension of the 4th amendment at every possible event, police searched the bags of anyone they chose along the 26-mile track of the annual Chicago Marathon.  More disturbing than the predictable push to eliminate privacy rights is the public’s utter acquiescence in the face of the growing police state.

(Source: AP Photo /  Nam Y. Huh)
(Source: AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh)

At the annual race on Sunday, October 13th, a legion of police officers lined the streets.  Chicago Police sent more than 1,000 officers to the race; some wearing conspicuous yellow vests, others infiltrating the crowd in plain clothes.  FBI agents wearing military fatigues held a visible presence throughout the track, along with federal ATF agents and U.S. Marshals carrying rifles.  DHS agents littered the scene performing searches with dogs.

Department of Homeland Security designated the marathon a “Level Two” event, justifying the massive presence of federal agents at the race.  Near the intersection of Michigan and Jackson, a giant Emergency Alert System banner read “EAS: Alert Level Low.”

“Everywhere you look there’s about 20 officers at the corner, about 14 helicopters in the air,” said Amie Byrne.

Grant Park was locked down with checkpoints and suspicionless bag searches.   To add to the security theater, the race banned costumes for participants and only allowed runners to carry clear plastic baggies.

Barriers and fencing were erected in many places, a notable difference from years past.  “(Now) you can’t run out and say, ‘Hi,'” commented one onlooker.  Unlike in the past, when police have looked the other way, no one was allowed to help a marathoner finish the run in the last mile or two.

An FBI agent "creates a hostile environment for bad guys."  (Source: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)
An FBI agent “creates a hostile environment for bad guys.” (Source: Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

Bleachers that were open to the public years past were heavily restricted, leaving many disappointed fans.  “I understand … the need for security,” said runner Clara Santucci. “I just hope they can figure out (a solution) so spectators aren’t kept from being able to see the most exciting parts of the race, like the start and the finish. It’s what our sport is all about, and I don’t want that taken away from us.”

“The goal is to create a hostile environment for the bad guys,” said veteran counter-terrorism agent Michael O’Neil, who is now president of MSA Security.  “[The race has] no hard perimeter like in a stadium,” so security measures are being pushed out onto public city streets.  Everyone should be in the paranoid “if you see something, say something” mindset, according to O’Neil.

Thousands of cameras monitored the crowds.  “We are going to have eyes on the ground on just about every foot of the marathon route,” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.

The Chicago Police Department’s forward command post near the finish line was complete with a bank of video feeds providing real time views of an urban racecourse. It’s one of six operational centers where dozens of police officers were monitoring a video network capable of calling up pictures from as many as 22,000 cameras, most of them fixed, some of them temporarily set up for the marathon. Ground level to building tops, they were all watching an event that had only very minor distractions.  (Source: ABC 7 News)

More than 1,000 Chicago police officers secured the race with checkpoints and random bag searches.  (Source: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
1,000+ CPD officers staffed checkpoints and performed random bag searches. (Source: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The bag searches weren’t confined to the restricted starting-line and finish-line.  Police were instructed to perform “random” searches of spectators’ bags along the entire 26.2-mile track, where more than a million people gather annually to watch the race.

“This year we had to ratchet it up a bit based on Boston obviously,” said Garry McCarthy.

Some remarked about how tight that ratchet of security was starting to feel.

“I’ve been to a lot of concerts, and I’ve ran a lot of half marathons. There’s always security, but it’s never been this intense,” Jessica Vitale said.

Officers will be making more random searches of spectators’ bags than they have in the past. For the first time, unattended bags will simply get discarded after they get inspected by bomb-sniffing dogs and are dubbed safe, McCarthy said. Friends and relatives planning to find runners in a designated meeting area will be subject to searches as well.  (Source:  Washington Post)

Warrantless backpack searches have become a favorite tactic of police after the bombing incident at the Boston Marathon.  We’ve seen them at other large “races” this year, including the Mackinac Bridge Walk in St. Ignace, Michigan.   This will be the new normal going forward.  No civil rights will stand in the way of maintaining the illusion through government-imposed security.

Chicago has experience with large-scale security extravaganzas with the recent Presidential inauguration, NATO summit, and a celebratory parade following the Chicago Blackhawks hockey championship.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPD’s Garry McCarthy have been pushing for warrantless bag searches to be standard police tactics during any type of large public event.

The tragedy of the situation is that Americans seem to be OK with their rights being forfeit.  To our knowledge, there were no protests of the suspicionless bag searches.  And many seem to enjoy the new police state.

“It’s nice to see the dogs and police and security checks,” gushed Dan Klein, 33, of Long Grove. “I think it’s good, it’s probably a bit overkill, but it’s the era we live in.”

Get acquainted with every public gathering for the rest of your lives, America.

 

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Chicago police perform warrantless backpack searches of people on the streets on the day of the Blackhawks' parade in June 2013.  (Source: NBC Chicago)
Chicago police perform warrantless backpack searches of people on the streets on the day of the Blackhawks’ parade in June 2013. (Source: NBC Chicago)

Accountability Check

 Chicago Police Department
Main Office Phone:  (312) 744-4000
Facebook:  Chicago Police

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy
Phone Hotline:  (773) 533-6272

Mayor Rahm Emanuel


 

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