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Catching the bad guys, helping the good guys

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty  April 19, 2013 07:15 PM

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ACLU of Massachusetts legal director Matthew Segal and executive director Carol Rose wrote this blog:

At a Friday evening press conference following some of the most tragic and chaotic days in the state’s history, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick made two important announcements: first, he lifted the “stay indoors request,” and second, he called on everyone to remain “vigilant.” Those announcements were important not only because they help people know what to expect from the police, but also because they help us understand our liberties in the face of terror.

Patrick’s announcement about the stay indoors “request” is important because it confirms that the request was never an order. True, the request was almost unanimously followed, including by ACLU staff members. But that’s because we all want to be safe and help law enforcement do its job, especially in times of crisis. With the possible exception of the immediate areas in which officers are actively following a dangerous suspect, no town in Massachusetts could lawfully have been locked down. And no person in Massachusetts gives up her rights just by walking the streets or living near where a criminal flees.

The Governor’s statements on Friday night seemed to confirm that he agrees.

Patrick’s announcement about remaining vigilant is important because it confirms that being free doesn’t mean abandoning our fellow citizens. Just as the government cannot order everyone in the Boston area to remain indoors, it can’t order everyone to watch for the one living suspect of the Marathon bombings. But, of course, that’s what nearly everyone in Boston did. If the awful Marathon week proved anything, it’s that the people of Boston, and of Massachusetts, rise to the challenges of citizenship.

But we should do more than be vigilant in hopes of catching the bad guys. We should be equally vigilant in hopes of helping the good guys.

Consider that, in the days before the FBI posted pictures of the suspects, two brown-skinned teenagers were falsely accused of the bombings, and a woman in Malden was allegedly attacked for wearing a hijab. Surely we in Boston can, through vigilance, help to limit similar events in the future.

As national ACLU executive director Anthony Romero has said, “it is important to remember that Marathon runners and supporters, as well as first responders, people who provided key evidence to the authorities and those injured or killed because of these senseless acts, were of different nationalities, ethnic and racial backgrounds, ideologies and religions.” Especially with a suspect on the loose, we need to hold onto that spirit in the days and weeks ahead.

Given the truly heroic, brave, and remarkable acts we’ve witnessed in recent days, there is every reason to think that we can.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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