Miriam Carey, a 34-year-old, black dental hygienist and mother from Connecticut, was shot by an informal police firing squad in the heart of nation’s capital in broad daylight last Oct. 3 because she made a wrong turn near the White House.
While the incident turned Washington upside-down for the day, the press has demonstrated an uncanny lack of interest in the case.
Civil liberties and civil rights groups have been remarkably silent.
Law enforcement authorities have refused to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for the official police report and video recordings of the incident.
Contrast this remarkable display of overwhelming police violence in Barack Obama’s America in 2013 with what happened 43 years ago tomorrow in the streets of Washington under the dreaded imperial presidency of Richard Nixon.
I was there as a 16-year-old participant among as many as 35,000 other radical, anti-war rioters determined to “shut the city down” and to “bring the war home.”
For three days in May 1971, known as the May Day protests, tens of thousands roamed the streets of Washington in small groups overturning automobiles, smashing plate-glass windows, lighting bonfires and hurling rocks and bottles at police, resulting in the biggest mass arrest in the nation’s history – ultimately more than 12,000.
Remarkably, no one was seriously hurt. No one was shot. No one was killed.
Nearly all charges were dropped against those arrested, and their arrest records were expunged. Many of the rioters were even compensated financially for their trouble in a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
What a difference 43 years makes.
Back then, there were almost no surveillance cameras on the streets of Washington.
Back then, there were no concrete barriers protecting every government building and facility.
Back then, the only communications in use between police, Army and National Guard soldiers were radios and telephones.
Back then, there was no shooting.
Back then, no one died.
In 1971, 35,000 hard-core, radical protesters came to Washington with the express intent of disrupting the city by any means necessary. They even camped within a stone’s throw of the White House and Capitol – and, as an active participant, I can tell you we were not opposed to throwing a few stones.
But, even with the dreaded and much-maligned Richard Nixon in charge, every one of those 35,000 radical practitioners of extreme civil disobedience walked out of Washington alive and no worse for wear.
Meanwhile, last fall, Miriam Carey came to Washington with her infant daughter in tow. What she was doing in Washington is still unclear to family members. Maybe she just wanted to see the White House. But after making a wrong turn, police began firing at her car. No doubt panicked, she drive off, leading police on a high-speed pursuit that ended near the Capitol in a hail of bullets – the fatal one in the back of her head. Remarkably, her baby survived the fusillade of gunshots fired.
I’ve been haunted by this reckless execution since the day it occurred. I can’t understand it. I can’t comprehend it. I was shocked that day when members of Congress gave the Capitol Police a standing ovation for their protecting them from the phantom threat posed by Miriam Carey.
What does it say about the direction of our country when an innocent mother is gunned down by police in the streets of the capital for no reason and there is so little concern, so little protest, so little compassion, so little curiosity, so little remorse, so little justice – and so much secrecy?
What’s the difference between 1971 and 2014? In my lifetime, I have seen America effectively become a shoot-first-ask-questions-later police state that can take anyone’s life for any reason without explanation under the guise of defending the gilded princes of Washington.
Back then, thousands of troublemakers – me included – went to Washington with the express purpose of tearing it up and shutting it down. No one was killed. No one was injured. Even those arrested got off scot-free. Today, a mom with a baby in tow who makes a wrong turn can get the death penalty – and there’s nary a protest over it.
Media wishing to interview Joseph Farah, please contact [email protected].