Friday night on Santa Monica’s popular Main Street, up southbound from Venice Blvd. approaching Pico, a long line of police cars stopping traffic randomly.
Shining a flashlight in the eyes. Asking where you were. Did you have a drink? What was the name of the restaurant?
My understanding is that the police on the streets have the right, and the specific job, of stopping cars when drivers are dangerous.
Protecting the public, right?
My understanding is that this is August 16, 2013, in Santa Monica, California, in America, not August 16, 1939 in Nazi Germany.
Having recently viewed the Woody Allen-supported DVD reissue of “The Sorrow and the Pity”, the story and actual footage of Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, I was flummoxed to experience, first-hand, a way too familiar scene of corruption and entitled uniformed force of power over innocent citizens in August, 2013, America, innocent drivers in this case. (!)
My understanding, (along with my vivid imagination), is that in America we have rights and privacy provisions for our citizens on the streets, at home, even those coming home from restaurants.
This “understanding” was proved wrong and definitively not the case on this August 16, Friday night in Santa Monica.
Am I missing something? I asked several “cops” what this was all about. “Are you pulling everyone over now?”
One uniformed worker told me, “Only every 3rd car”.
The others deflected my question and muttered, “They have a system”.
Who are they? And what gives them the right to invade anyone’s privacy for any other reason than a clear infraction of the law?
This surely feels like a fascist practice run.
But for what? What’s next? The freedom to grab people after restaurant dinners and demand a recitation of the food they ordered?
How many calories were consumed? What was the ratio of food consumed vs. sips of wine? Did you have dessert? Was it, or was it not, crème brulee?
They’re filming something, I thought, as I approached the uniforms, police cars, and bright lights. Surely it was the filming of a movie, as often happens on the streets of L.A., when there are tall yellow bright lights brought onto the streets and arranged amidst rows of police cars and uniformed men in formation.
But, no, this is not a filming. There is, finally, a flashing sign stating that this is a sobriety checkpoint, this set-up that was visible at 7PM and fully functioning at 9:30PM.
There is no question that when people are dangerous behind the wheel, whether intoxicated or not, it is correct procedure for the police to pull them over.
This was something else. What this was, was an arrogant display of invasion and police force, combined with a suspiciously unconvincing response to the pointed question of what exactly was going on.
In their soggy response, I sensed a rehearsed, minutely shaky resolve in these powerful props, these “police” figures.
It seemed that when questioned, they somehow knew that what they were up to was not precisely up to the law, as we know it.
No backing down, on their part, however, just a whiff of insecurity in their fascist determination, with regard to the unknown and yet-to-be determined response of a random public as they are caught unaware and vulnerable on a Friday night in Santa Monica; trapped by a profound, here-and-now privacy invasion where the invaders are government-sanctioned and armed with guns.
A fascist practice run? I hope not.