A group of civil liberties activists plan to descend on the Union Station Metro stop today to beef up its petition against Metro's new controversial bag-check policy, says Pat Elder, one of the group's organizers. The agency started randomly screening bags for explosives yesterday morning at the Braddock Road and College Park stations and has said the checks will go on indefinitely.
The activists, many of them affiliated with the D.C. Bill of Rights Coalition and the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, say they have collected around 500 signatures so far and hope to rack up more between 5 and 6:30 p.m. this afternoon. Calling the screenings "illegal," the group's organizers say the new Metro policy violates the 4th Amendment's right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Elder, a school teacher near Frederick, says the response to the petition has generally been favorable, adding that of the people who actually care, "we've got them three to one." He just wishes Metro hadn't launched its new bag screenings during the holiday season when it's difficult to organize.
"It's the worst time," says Elder, a long-time civil liberties activist. "If it was summertime we could get 50 people out there and cover all the Metro stops. I mean, [the timing] sure does make it difficult. Our press guy is in Minneapolis right now."
Considering a lot of Metro riders (at least in the twitterverse) have questioned the effectiveness of these new screenings, Elder says he's enjoying a rare occasion when a civil-liberties activists' feelings don't stray too far from a lot of citizens'.
"Here, I don't think we're the nuts," he says. "It kind of feels good."
Elder says they'll be out collecting signatures on Christmas Day and into the new year.