In a Paranoid Nation, “Treason” Is Everywhere
FBI agents across the nation are tracking down and arresting Trump supporters who walked into the US Capitol during the January 6 protest that turned into a brawl. Scores of protestors have already been charged with unlawful entry—“knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.” The media is treating this as a heinous and self-evident offense, but my own experience at Washington protests makes me wary of treating transgressions as treason.
I roamed downtown Washington on the day before the inauguration. The city was a ghost town, and most of the stores were either boarded up or out of business. More than a dozen subway stops were barricaded shut to prevent any guys wearing furry hats with horns from suddenly appearing from underground to strike terror into the hearts of the media.
Practically the only folks on the streets were National Guard troops touting automatic weapons (mostly without ammo magazines). There were snipers on rooftops and helicopters occasionally buzzing overhead—all part of what DC mayor Muriel Bowser hailed as the “peaceful transition of power in our country.” If it had been even more “peaceful,” drones would have been blowing up manhole covers. Deploying twenty thousand troops in the nation’s capital was noncontroversial for the nation’s media, because the soldiers were supposedly protecting America against right-wing extremists.
At Farragut Square, I entered the “green zone”—the official term for the area the military locked down and the same term the US military used earlier in Baghdad. I ambled over to the edge of Lafayette Park next to the White House, scene of clashes between demonstrators and police last June and a Trump photo op that went awry. I have witnessed many rowdy protests at this park over the decades, but it was walled off with thick wire fencing. I could see the forms of soldiers on the other side of the barrier but not much else. No chance of getting even a glimpse of the White House.
I chatted with a Secret Service policeman guarding the entrance to the park. When I said I was heading toward the Mall, he replied: “You can’t go through here but if you go down to the next block—Seventeenth Street—you can walk to Constitution Avenue from there.”
I thanked the dude and made tracks. But after walking a block or two on Seventeenth, further progress was barred by a tangle of high barriers.
I saw a solitary soldier standing guard to make sure that no pickpockets carted off one of the four thousand–pound concrete jersey barriers blocking the road. He told me that if I went one block over, to Eighteenth Street, that was clear all the way to the Mall.
At Constitution Avenue, I saw that the Mall was completely barricaded. On the other side of the high fences, I saw troops patrolling with their rifles at the ready in case anyone tried to kidnap the geese in the Reflecting Pool.
In the distance, I could see the Washington Monument, but that was as close as I could get—that landmark was protected by row after row of barricades, from the edge of Constitution Avenue onward. To justify writing off my subway fare as a business expense, I took a bevy of bad photos, including a few with a large yellow Police Line Do Not Cross sign juxtaposed with the base of the monument.
Heading back up Eighteenth Street, I ran into another military roadblock—a half dozen soldiers staked out by a closed subway station. I told them
Article from Mises Wire