Is it alright for the police to forbid you from traveling to and from your own home?

Most (hopefully all!) people would agree that the police should not be legally allowed to do that.  At least not without a compelling reason, such as a gas leak, or an unhinged neighbor shooting up the place.

What if there wasn’t an emergency however, but an event planned almost a year in advance?  That’s what happened this past weekend in Philadelphia.  Imagine Ben Franklin told he might be able to leave his home on horseback but would have to walk miles back on foot to return.  This was true for many thousands of Philadelphians in the wake of the Pope’s visit and the police state that was in force throughout much of the city.

The people weren’t on horseback, but they were forbidden from using cars and bicycles.  This is not simply for an hour or six, but for several days.  It may well be within the bounds of permissible restrictions for private airlines to require passengers to pass through magnetometers, but for people who merely want to return to their homes it seems likely to be an impermissible burden on their right to travel freely.  Reports of 5+ hour waits at metal detectors were common

Check out this photo from Sunday:


Those are residences on both sides of the barriers.  What if you need to walk your dog, buy some food, or simply wish to leave your home and return unmolested by government agents?  Not in Philly, not last weekend, if you live within a 4+ square mile area of where the Pope would be.  

Is this some anti-Catholic issue – what’s the big deal anyway?  Well if “they” can do it for the Pope, they can do it for other reasons, and perhaps no reason at all.  Setting a precedent where some people are forbidden from freely traveling to their homes and offices for days at a time is a troubling one.

The restrictions were so bad, in fact, that many chose to avoid the city altogether, and who can fault them given the draconian travel restrictions?  Blaming the press is of course a favorite tactic of the failure of political leadership, and Philadelphia Mayor Nutter wasted no time doing so:

“I think that in some instances you all scared the s— out of people,” an exasperated Nutter told reporters who pressed him on why the crowd estimates of 1 million to 1.5 million didn’t come close to the actual number of people attending the weekend’s papal events.

Good to know it wasn’t the heavy National Guard presence, months of dire warnings from officials, or the closure of most arterial passages into and out of the city.  Nope.  It was the press.   That’s accountability for you.

One can only hope these officials will be put to the test by citizens challenging these restrictions.  If not, we can expect to see the same types of measures more frequently enacted, and freedom curtailed.  I spoke with ACLU of Pennsylvania Executive Director Reggie Shuford today and he was not aware of anyone challenging the travel restrictions at this time.

Director of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said “We have worked hard to achieve what we believe will be a safe and successful event and visit by the Holy Father and a safe and successful time for all those who wish to be here and see him. We believe we have struck that right balance for the public.”  

One wonders where the balance was – permitting people in the city at all?  Perhaps we need a Director of Liberty who can advocate for same in the discussions when these sorts of events are planned.  Sadly no one else at the table seems to be arguing against the security state.