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Guardians of the streets and the vote

Suspicious package and suspect voting machines bring life to downtown Raleigh


The two big back-to-back shows in downtown over the weekend were inescapable in the contrast in how systems respond. In the case of Saturday's Operation Capital Guardian, a conjoined effort by the State Highway Patrol, Capitol Police and Raleigh police (originally to be a terrorism drill complete with a smoke bomb, building evacuations and so forth) a wild card brought around a change in tactics and something closer to the real thing.

The discovery at 9:30 a.m. of a questionable package in a trash can in front of the Legislative Building fomented a drop-back-and-punt by the couple of hundred law enforcement and emergency personnel on hand for the fun. Under gray, scudding clouds, while confused Oakwood neighbors gearing up for the annual Candlelight Tour contended with the festive array of emergency lights and blocked off roads, the sudden change in plans (the bomb was set to go off at one o'clock) briefly snarled morning traffic of gawkers and visitors to downtown.

An explosives unit recovered the offending package with the aid of a bomb recovery robot, the duffel bag to be blown open with high pressure water, revealing clothing--and a suggestion that some wag may have "hacked" the exercise.

"That is a possibility we are looking into," said Bryan Beatty, secretary for the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety of the spoiling of the exercise.

Beatty did not know what type of clothing was found in the bag that may have pointed the finger toward a possible culprit.

The coordinating parties took the change in strides. Beatty and Crime Control spokesperson Renee Hoffman both agreed that it was a great example of how emergency personnel were able to adapt in numbers to a fluid situation (despite the obvious disappointment of the smoke bomb not being detonated).

The next day, Sunday, saw the Vote Tally Rally at the Capitol ground, also a response to how systems respond--in this case, how the system of civil government, the people, responds to strong evidence of widespread election fraud in the last election. Unlike the scores of police on hand for Capital Guardian, or the thousands that took to the streets in the wake of the Ukrainian elections, the sun-splashed day in Raleigh brought out 75 people who assembled to listen to the line-up of speakers, all of them stating what should be obvious in a democracy: "There must be transparency," said speaker David Allen of High Point, a leader in, an Internet-based watchdog group that has been making hay since November's election.

As an example, Allen ran the crowd through the procedures involved in drunken driving cases. "Finally," Allen said, "they take you downtown and you meet a device called a Breathalyzer," pointing out that law enforcement has a system of if this, then that procedures for dealing with situations, and that there seems to be no similar system for contending with voting irregularities.

After he spoke, Allen responded to a question as to the influence of BlackBoxVoting by reminding one that the organization had gotten paperless voting machines banned in Ireland.

As to North Carolina's voting crisis, Allen likened the lack of storage in the UniLect voting machines that led to the loss of an estimated 4,500 votes in Carteret County to "GM making the body of a car out of Styrofoam," and that UniLect's responses would have been similar to GM saying "No one told us to design it to be crashed."

When queried about the turnout, Allen pointed out that the decision to hold the rally had been made recently.

The crowd, though small, was vocal, applauding loudly at times.

Anthony Wilson, a reporter for Channel 11, the local ABC affiliate, called the turnout "disappointing," adding that the fine, clear weather made it a "good day for visuals."

The crowd was a mixed bag. The expected young were there, but the bulk of the crowd was representative of the population of the area--middle-aged, with one end of the bell curve held down by college kids, the other by older folks, a few gray heads in their Sunday best.

Toward the rear of the assembled, Adam Gorod, a cultural anthropology undergraduate at Duke studying how "local social movements are impacted by larger systems," was unfazed by the small turnout. "These sort of things take lots of mobilizing," he said. "Parties have to rely on networking to be effective."

Mikey Ross, a bartender from Raleigh, said the crowd was too small for the importance of the gathering. "There needs to be more organization," he said.

While a spirited impromptu discussion of the need for organization ensued in the back of the scene, it was impossible to not notice that local law enforcement seemed to have their organization in place, observing the gathering from a polite, unobtrusive distance.

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