History Channel’s Sons of Liberty Miniseries

If you haven’t watched this series, I would highly recommend you give it a chance.  I will warn that it takes some dramatic license and condenses the time frame in order to present a tight, three 2-hour miniseries rather than a more drawn out season-long series centered on the men who became known as the Sons of Liberty.

The series is focused on the events leading up to the arrival of General Gates of the British and the formal Declaration of Independence.  Many of the men that would go on to become our nation’s Founding Fathers have prominent roles in this miniseries.  For all of the series’ faults, it does an excellent job conveying the tone and the overarching themes and threats of the time.  It showed the British soldiers more as an occupying army than anything else, but it also showed the patriots as drunks, thugs, and rioters.

During the lead up to the Boston Massacre on screen, you can understand the motivations of either side.  The British, outnumbered and in the midst of an unruly crowd on the verge of violence, had justification in defending themselves.  The Colonists were likewise shocked when they did just that despite their own provocations just moments before.

Where the series has it’s faults are in the details.  Phrases and quotes were spoken by the wrong person, and the series falls short of providing the full discourse and philosophical thoughts that the HBO John Adams’ series so perfectly nailed.  The History Channel’s production though succeeded in showing the events in total and how each side kept escalating the situation until violence between the two was inevitable.

What I want to mention though is that the miniseries did one amazing thing.  It showed that the rebellious Sons of Liberty would have been rounded up and hanged pretty soon after General Gates’ arrival if not for their willingness to fight and their ability to fight on equal terms of the British regulars who marched to Lexington and Concord.  The British had numbers and experience.  The farmers, millers, and minutemen assembled on Lexington Green and at Concord Bridge had neither, but they had weapons with which to oppose and turn away the British Army that day.

What is so often forgotten in the present age is how the colonists were as well armed as the British regulars with privately held muskets, pioneer long rifles, and cannons.  Yes, cannons.  The American colonists were able to defend their right to free speech, their right to assemble, and to be secure in their papers and property, etc etc etc BECAUSE they had arms.  They had weapons, modern military weapons including weapons of such destruction as heavy cannons, and they were equal to those of their oppressors, not weakened civilian grade versions or likenesses.

At one point George Washington at the Contintental Congress was asked what the Massachusetts men could do with General Gage pressing martial law in Boston.  He said to resist.  I don’t know if Ole George ever gave that advice, but if he did, he had to have known that the only means of resistance when your oppressor means to bring arms to bear against you is to take arms up in defense and for that one must OWN, KEEP, and HAVE those arms and ammunition at your immediate disposal.

That is the foundation principle behind the Second Amendment to the American Constitution.

Thank you History Channel for really highlighting that, whether you meant to do so or not, because without those privately held arms, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Warren, and the others would be only footnotes in history as traitors to the Crown and the troubles in Boston would have been quashed by the full might of the British Empire before they became full blown rebellion.

Boston Strong

I elected to not write on this topic again until I’d had time to let the emotions of the attack, aftermath, manhunt, and capture of the surviving suspect currently in custody.  My reasons were twofold –  to avoid presenting factually incorrect information and to give myself time to think over the implications and outcomes of the event from the initiation of the attack until now.

First, I find it disturbing how readily people were willing to cheer what has the potential to become the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IV, US Constitution

The argument could be made that the officers and other law enforcement personnel requested permission to search, but there is a significant legal problem with the way those searches were conducted.  When a dozen (or more) armed law enforcement officers are standing nearby, including some with their weapons trained on you, when you open the door or look out the window the voluntary nature of consent has been violated.  That is duress in base form as the threat of imminent force is present and being brandished openly.

Duress

Restraint or danger, actually inflicted or impending, which is sufficient in severity or apprehension to deprive a person of free choice, destroy his volition, or obtain consent only in form.

Lectric Law Library

While I am certain that many offered voluntary consent, the mere presence of so many heavily armed and armored personnel of questionable identity (local police, state police, FBI, and National Guard appeared to be wearing similar military clothing and body armor) and with vehicles that have prior-to-now been only used in war zones such as Baghdad or Kandahar is tacit and outright duress under force.  Those voluntary consents were nullified by the show of force outside and are invalid.  I can’t speak as to what happened if searches were denied by invoking the fourth amendment, but in the face of so many rifle barrels, I hesitate to believe more than a handful remembered that they had that right in the first place.

My other observation is that the lockdown (shelter-in-place order) and concurrent door-to-door neighborhood sweep and manhunt failed to locate the suspect.  The suspect was not even within the searched zone so the manhunt had zero probability of success (more on this in a minute).  The suspect was located and captured only after the lockdown was lifted.

Officers may make warrantless searches and seizures if they find that exigent circumstances exist and that they have probable cause. An exigent circumstance exists when an officer has a compelling need to take official action but lacks the time needed to get a warrant. Determining probable cause in this context requires a consideration of the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an officer acted in accord with a high probability that the search would turn up contraband or evidence.

Search & Seizure Law

Did exigent circumstances exist to allow for the search for the suspect? Absolutely.  Was there a high probability that the suspect would be found in the area where the manhunt and door-to-door searches was conducted?  It is true after-the-fact that the answer is no.

Have we ever had bombings in this country?  Yes. The first such terrorist-style attack occurred in 1886.  Since then, there have been dozens of bombings in the United States, and while the attack on Boston was terrible for those injured and the families who lost loved ones, the attack itself and the threat to public safety posed by the suspect(s) after their identities were known paled in comparison to Timothy McVeigh (who killed 169 and injured 675 in 1995), the culprits of the Wall Street bombing in 1920 (30 killed, 300 injured), or even of the infamous Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski (3 killed, 23 wounded over 17 years of bombings).  Moreover, those prior attacks never merited the willful (even if temporary) surrender of citizens’ rights that occurred recently in Boston.  The manhunt scale and scope was unprecedented.  The shelter-in-place order was unprecedented as they have historically been used for wide-scale chemical spills and similar disasters, not fugitive searches.

I don’t want to stomp on anyone’s toes with this, I’m just trying to point out that all of the good intentions in the world don’t matter when you start shredding citizens’ rights.  What worries me even more is when those same citizens cheer it on, either ignoring or failing to understand when a watershed moment has occurred.

For more on this topic, I suggest John Whitehead’s commentary.

Paradigm Shift: Terrorism

**EDITED**

It was brought to my attention that perhaps I was being too harsh toward Bostonians as a whole, that families would need to be protected, and that putting what I laid out into practice was impractical and foolhardy.  Upon re-reading what I wrote from the perspective of someone undergoing the manhunt in their neighborhood, I partially agree.  I decided to edit this entry as a result.

Perhaps we’re approaching terrorism all wrong in this country.

Boston in Lockdown for Manhunt

Watertown, Mass. Shut Down in Manhunt for Second Boston Marathon Suspect

Two men (actually one since the older brother was killed in a shootout with police) are effectively holding the entire city of Boston and surrounding suburbs effectively under siege.  That’s approximately 4.5 million people.  Based on the city’s annual GDP, shutting down the entire city for a day will cost the Greater Boston area approximately $850,000,000 in economic production. One man – 4.5 million citizens effectively under siege – nearly one billions dollars of economic productivity lost.  All in the name of public safety.

What you have to consider is how this looks from the outside though.  The city is effectively shut down.  The people, while talking bravely, are acting cowardly by remaining locked up in their homes.  The economic impact alone is tremendous.  The 26 and 19 year old brothers suspected of the marathon bombing and the younger one, still wanted and freely roaming the streets of Massachusetts, serve as an example of a successful terrorist attack.

The impact that they have had is broad and multifaceted.  They took life suddenly, maimed dozens, and traumatically wounded the Boston Marathon for years to come in the minds, if not the hearts, of many despite the rhetoric and chest-beating by many after the fact.  The success of an hardly technical attack directly under the noses of hundreds of Boston police officers and other various agencies and directorates responsible for expressly preventing such attacks.  It immediately highlighted our vulnerabilities.  Future terror attempts will note that airports, aircraft, and firearms were unnecessary to cause terror and lock up a city in fear – common every day items properly combined are just as useful.

The economic impact will be painful as well, although it won’t be as immediately felt.

These observations are being taken by those that aspire to reproduce the same effects.  The means may be different next time, but these two managed to tie up the resources of nearly the entire state of Massachusetts, the FBI, DHS, and who knows what other agencies with little investment on their part.

The next time, the attack could come in NYC, or LA, or Chicago, Cleveland, or any number of other big cities.  The same lockdown and search approach will only further embolden the next attack as the costs in terms of manpower and wealth grow and the fear is just as insidious for those near the attack, despite whatever assurances they give themselves in the aftermath that they will continue living their lives with no changes, as city leaders order them to remain inside under a self-imposed siege in order to deny the benefit of crowds and a busy city to the fugitive on the run.

This from a supposed nation of minutemen?  Massachusetts, the home of the Minuteman, of Lexington Green, of Concord and the opening shots of the American Revolution 238 years old this very day?  The strength of Bostonians in the aftermath of the tragedy on Monday is remarkable, but this mandated lockdown denies the police their biggest ally in the fight to capture or kill the fugitive terrorist – the observant and wary citizenry of the city itself.  Every Bostonian had a reason to want this man located and stopped and to force them to remain docile and “sheltered in place” not only removed them from the equation, but it started a clock for the fugitive as the lockdown could only last so long before it was lifted (which it was shortly after I originally published the first version of this article).

Imagine the message that would’ve been sent and received loud and clear if those same Bostonians had been allowed to respond as their forefathers did 238 years ago today.  The way you stop the next terror event is not by locking up the people for their own protection, but by encouraging an overwhelming show that there will not be a NEXT event because the spirit of the minuteman still beats within the chests of every Bostonian.  Every citizen should have been encouraged to arm themselves and go about their day as usual, protected by those very arms wherever they were, with the vigilance that comes with moving about while armed, and the ability to not only report a sighting of the fugitive, but the ability to provide for your own protection without needing the police to risk their own lives on your behalf.  At the very minimum, such a display would be of the people’s liberty teeth, not as a threat against one another, but as a demonstration for all future terrorists that ANY future attacks will not be met by a voluntary siege, but rather by return fire from any and all angles.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

United States Constitution, Amendment II

That is the reason the Second Amendment was codified as second in the ten of the original Bill of Rights, so that the people are not reliant on benevolent police for their protection, but rather are able to provide for their own protection, so that terrorists and tyrants would forever know that their evil is not only unwelcome, but will be repelled and repulsed, not just by a select few, but by any and all of the citizenry.

Boston, I grieve for you.  I wish for your sake that your city leadership had encouraged you to help them beyond just staying out of their way and treating you as citizens – stakeholders in your city and state – rather than as subjects.

On The Run

I won’t wax poetic about the manhunt underway in Boston.  With one of the bombing suspects confirmed dead and a search of his body revealing indications that he was wearing a suicide vest, this act of terror by two Chechens has taken a new twist. Never before in the United States have we encountered suicide bombers like this.

On a personal note, my younger sister lives in Boston in the area where the manhunt is underway.

More to come…

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