Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't go back to Rockville

As readers of this feature know, I have a teenaged son. From time to time he hangs out at our house by himself. Mrs. D and I don't worry about him being home much any more, since he's largely self-sufficient and usually spends his free time trying to climb into his Nintendo DS player. When he's home alone, it is quite rare if anyone comes to the door and his instructions are to just ignore any visitors.

It turns out that my son has a contemporary who lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC. As it happens, his family was away and he was in his home alone about a week back. He had a tough time ignoring the visitors who came to his house, though. Nina Easton, a writer for Fortune who happens to live in the neighborhood where the event happens, picks up the story:

Last Sunday, on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, our toddler finally napping upstairs, my front yard exploded with 500 screaming, placard-waving strangers on a mission to intimidate my neighbor, Greg Baer. Baer is deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), a senior executive based in Washington, D.C. And that -- in the minds of the organizers at the politically influential Service Employees International Union and a Chicago outfit called National Political Action -- makes his family fair game.

Waving signs denouncing bank "greed," hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer's steps, and onto his front porch. As bullhorns rattled with stories of debtor calls and foreclosed homes, Baer's teenage son Jack -- alone in the house -- locked himself in the bathroom. "When are they going to leave?" Jack pleaded when I called to check on him.

Baer, on his way home from a Little League game, parked his car around the corner, called the police, and made a quick calculation to leave his younger son behind while he tried to rescue his increasingly distressed teen. He made his way through a din of barked demands and insults from the activists who proudly "outed" him, and slipped through his front door.
I guess I won't complain about the motley group of peddlers who want to sell door-to-door tree-trimming services and gas coupon cards who usually show up at my place.

I used to work for B of A and I'm pretty sure I got an e-mail from Greg Baer once. I might have even been on a conference call with him. While I'm sure he's an evil corporate fatcat I don't recall that he was a bad dude. B of A executives, in the main, are actually pretty reasonable people. Can you imagine what this experience must have been like for the youngster in the house? While I could understand a group of protestors showing up at B of A's offices, coming to someone's house seems a bit much, doncha think? Easton thinks so, too:

Now this event would accurately be called a "protest" if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be "mob." Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked-even on the police. A trio of officers who belatedly answered our calls confessed a fear that arrests might "incite" these trespassers.
What's even more interesting about this is that the local officers who responded were unaware that a different police force had helped the SEIU find Mr. Baer's home, even providing an escort:

According to Corporal Dan Friz, an MCPD spokesperson in Rockville, Maryland, the department received a disturbance call from one of Baer’s neighbors at 4:10 pm last Sunday. Four MCPD units arrived at Baer’s Greenville Rd. address at 4:15 pm. At least two Metropolitan Police Department units from the nearby District of Columbia were already at the scene when they arrived.

Why? Because police cars attached to the Washington MPD’s Civil Disturbance Unit had escorted the SEIU protesters’ buses to Baer’s home. Such cross-jurisdictional escort activity is not uncommon for both departments according to Friz and Metro Police Department spokesperson Officer Eric Frost. Still, the District police did not inform their colleagues of what was about to happen in one of their Maryland neighborhoods.
That seems a little strange, doesn't it? And get a load of the reason the Washington MPD was there on SEIU's behalf:

The primary role of the Washington cops in this event was to protect the protesters. The D.C. officers had no authority to act to disperse the protesters even had the homeowner been present and asked them to vacate the private property. The event ended as a “dash one”– no arrests, no citations – according to Friz. The Montgomery County units left the scene at 5:29 pm.
Emphasis mine. Maybe we haven't heard the whole story and Mr. Baer's son actually was in possession of a WMD or something, but why on earth would 14 busloads of protestors need "protection" from a private homeowner, even one with the financial resources of a B of A senior executive? And if the local Montgomery County police had turned on the protestors, what would the Washington MPD done? Start fighting the Montgomery County force on the lawn? I don't see how 500 protestors would have much to fear from the anyone in a residential neighborhood.

Maybe someone can explain why this incident happened. Maybe someone can even justify it. I'd be curious to hear that explanation, wouldn't you?


W.B. Picklesworth said...

There are hateful thugs conducting dangerous protests! Someone tell the press!!

(But don't tell 'em it's not the Tea Party.)

Gino said...

the protest and its nature is one thing for discussion.

but having a police escort is way beyond the pale.