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Portable Boundaries

by Carl Alviani (1914 words)

They are deceptively simple in design and so commonplace in our cities that we pass by them without giving them a second thought. But once they are deployed, they provide an extraordinarily effective means of crowd control, permitting even small forces to contain and control large masses of people with relatively little effort.

Although my neighbour Rebecca was nine months pregnant, she went to Manhattan on February 15th, 2003 to join the demonstration against the Iraq War. The estimated 300,000 protesters who converged on New York’s East Side that day had been denied a marching permit a week earlier by a federal judge who cited heightened security concerns in the wake of 9/11 and authorised only a stationary assembly on 1st Avenue. En route to the demonstration, Rebecca and thousands of others were gradually herded onto 2nd and 3rd Avenues by New York City police and found themselves confined within a corral of interlocking steel barricades. Rebecca eventually pushed her way to the edge of the crowd to plead for release, but others on the same block found themselves trapped in their impromptu prison for up to six hours in freezing temperatures.

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