Closely Watched Trains

BOSTON—It's like a lite version of Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie, or maybe the border crossing from Hungary into Yugoslavia during the early ’90s. Just as soon as the inbound Orange Line train leaves Charlestown's Sullivan Square, on the way to the FleetCenter, the conductor announces that police will be boarding at the next stop to search all bags.

Dutifully, the passengers unzip their backpacks and briefcases and hold them open, facing the main aisle. Transit cops, dressed in jumpsuits and carrying guns and nightsticks, work their way up and down the car, followed by a young woman from Fox News. "What are you doing?" she asks repeatedly. "Any trouble?" she wants to know. The cop looks at her like she's nuts, and shakes his head.

Then the cops start leaving the train, and the passengers zip back up so they can return to their papers—except for one man. “They’re violating my civil rights, these guys are," he says to a cop. Shaking his head, the cop laughs, and leaves the train. Cleared, we move on, skipping North Station, which is sealed off with emergency yellow tape and guarded by more armed police.

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