Torches and Pitchforks:

Politico reports:

Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.
Given their performance, they are getting off easy. The police do seem to be taking a hard line in defending public officials, though. Even so, I was surprised at this report, which I saw at Dad29's place.
During the motorcade when the president was arriving, there were several vehicles following the limo that contained the secret service. All of the vehicles had all the windows rolled down, and back hatch open on the SUVs with the men holding their, I assume assault rifes, machine guns, drawn on everyone lining the streets. Needless to say it took my breath away at the sight of them, and made my friends and I dizzy with fear. I have seen the secret service before, but never like this. While they were intimidating, I never felt in danger. The guns were not drawn when the motorcade was leaving the event. But I turned on a local talk radio program as we were leaving and all the calls were about witnessing the guns being pointed at them and nothing else until the end of the program.
I've seen the President's motorcade, but never did I encounter this particular unit with open windows -- the Counter Assault Team, as they are called. Apparently, at some point in the last few years this has become standard practice to judge by these pictures. It's not just M4 carbines, either.

I'm afraid the pitchforks aren't going to do much good. :)

Seriously, though, these guys aren't there for protestors. Their job is to protect the President against a disciplined attack by terrorists or paramilitary forces. It's kind of an oddity, since I don't know that there has ever been such an attack on any Presidential convoy; further, you'd expect a VBIED threat rather than terrorists ginning up a fire team to take on the convoy.

Still, it's never a bad idea to be prepared for contingencies. While the President -- any President -- is the most replacable man in the world, having a full-time understudy and a predetermined chain of successors, we do have actual enemies out there. Some of them are capable of staging an attack on his convoy, if they put enough planning into it.

The Secret Service aren't the President's enforcers. They don't exist to execute his orders. They exist to protect him, and have power to override his orders if they feel it is necessary to his immediate security. They are, therefore, properly viewed as an independent and honorable company, entirely separate from the politics of the day or the occupant of the office.

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