Cops sure like to show force and justify all the toys that 9/11 bought them.
The police response is better understood in terms of spectacle. The flag swap itself was a spectacular act. The perpetrators left no trace of an explanation. Bleached-out star-spangled banners might evoke ideas of pacifism and anti-US imperialism, but no communiques have confirmed nor even hinted at an intended message. What is certain, however, is that with this very visual act, the tricksters showed a crack in the fortress of New York infrastructure. Regardless of the harmlessness of the act, the NYPD can’t let the bold illustration of their own vulnerability go unpunished. Bullies are never more vicious than when embarrassed.