Political rallies are often held in America to generate enthusiasm and support for a candidate. A political rally organized and carried out with the sole purpose of expressing anger and frustration with one federal agency is unusual.
The political climate in America is changing. There is less political unity and strong, often differing opinions about the role of government, interpretation of the Constitution, and freedom for U.S. Citizens. The Transportation Security Administration, in particular, is highly visible and its actions are becoming a focal point of much of America’s discontent.
After a deluge of publicity about a 4’ 11,” 95-year old woman told to remove an adult diaper in the interest of security before she was allowed to board an airplane in order to join her family as she was dying of leukemia, the agency is a target of political discontent.
It isn’t easy in a small beach town to get people to come out on a weekday evening to fight the tourist traffic and to listen to speakers for two hours. Jean Weber, the mother of the elderly woman, was one of the featured speakers at an “Americans for Dignity” meeting in Fort Walton Beach where she addressed a gathering of about 200 people on a Thursday night.
She described how her mother was treated as her body and her wheelchair were thoroughly searched by TSA agents for about 20 minutes without her daughter being allowed to enter the room to watch the treatment of her mother by the TSA. Five agents were involved in the incident, one of whom later apologized to her for the treatment of her mother.
“I think you all are here tonight because you think this is wrong and I know in my heart that what happened to me and my family could happen to you” she told the audience.
The speakers at the event emphasized a firm but peaceful opposition to the TSA’s policies. “We are simply standing up,” said Mike Hill, President of the Northwest Florida Tea Party and emcee of the event. “We want to see change to the tactics that the TSA is using. This whole movement is going to be peaceful.”
While the event was not focused on any one politician or party, local radio host and former Air Force officer Burnie Thompson told the audience, “No subjugation of American citizens will stop until TSA becomes a political liability for President Obama.”
An argument initially made by Thompson and echoed by several other speakers was that “If it is reasonable to search an American who has not done anything except try to exercise the right to travel, what is unreasonable?” His overall view of the agency was that the TSA acronym should stand for “Training Submissive Americans.”
Thompson told FedSmith.com, “I have seen a certain ‘snarkiness’ from TSA agents and other federal employees who believe what I’m doing is silly and stupid. We are also doing this to defend your rights. I was a federal worker, and I think it is insulting and incredibly rude to discount what we are doing by saying, ‘We are federal workers and you don’t understand.’”
Thompson added, “We are very thankful for the work that you [federal employees] do. I understand as a former federal employee that we follow orders, but most of us also took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.”
Another retired military officer and security expert, Don Arias, recounted losing his brother in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and attending the start of a trial at Guantanamo Bay before the Obama administration abruptly ended them. While Mr. Arias and his siblings watched the beginning of the trial, they were sickened by the “smug, mocking attitude” of the terrorists and the court’s concern for their comfort and rights after human rights groups highlighted their concern that the pillow provided to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not sufficiently comfortable and the judge ordered up a replacement pillow.
Mr. Arias juxtaposed the concern about treating terrorists with comfort and dignity to the humiliating treatment of the enhanced pat downs our own citizens are now subjected to at airports.
He also referred to the TSA program as providing a perception of security based on a theory of political correctness rather than trying to provide actual security. He said rather than enhancing security, we are seeing “raw tyranny” by a government more concerned about intimidating Americans through intrusive personal searches of those exercising their right to travel while ignoring the security of our border with Mexico and allowing illegals to cross into our country with impunity.
The organizer of the event said that the rally was the first one in Florida and that a number of others were going to be held throughout the state. The immediate goal is to pressure the State of Florida to enact a criminal law to sanction any TSA searches that amount to battery or sexual assault.
Other states have flirted with similar measures. Texas, for instance, tried to craft similar legislation but it failed to pass the state legislature. Utah is planning to introduce legislation to ban TSA pat downs in its 2012 session.