Just to clear things up here, the airline was actually Republic Airlines, United's commuter contractor. Yes I get it, if everything says United, then they are at fault, but I think it should be made clear that this was NOT United mainline.
United hired Republic to fly on United's behalf. United sells and represents Republic flights as if they were their own. Republic staff follow United rules and speak and act as though they work for United. In the court of public opinion this is a distinction without a difference. The more significant realization is that this event is by no means unique to any one airline. Today it's on United. Tomorrow it could be on American or Southwest.
I've never understood this line of reasoning. No matter where you run the head bashing police state will follow you. They're operating under increasingly ruthless and vindictive societal norms and they're becoming mostly immune to serious life-altering repercussions. They couldn't care less if you scream or shout or photograph them or not. We've seen this before and deep down we know where it ends, but I guess acknowledging that reality is harder than pretending you can stop and prevent it simply by choosing a different transportation method. What a bizarre angle from which to post this story. This is neither the time nor the place to spin the story in order to plug travel on Amtrak.
This was a blatant abuse of power which followed a chain reaction of stupidity on the part of the airline, staff, and policies (keeping in mind there is much we don't know), but in no way does it equate to a 'police state'. And while you are correct in that it is most certainly not an appropriate plug for rail transportation, it is also true that you actually can still avoid such excessive 'heavy handed' and uncalled for treatment by an alternate mode of transportation. The degree of security and expected strict compliance of air travel has not (ordinarily) found its way onto trains, buses, or your private automobile. If the hyperbole is so great you call America a police state, what do you then call North Korea?
You see a chain reaction of stupidity. I see a chain reaction of irrational fear and indiscriminate cruelty. Entire nations don't suddenly get dumber, but they can be overcome with fear and manipulation. When security agencies operate under a secret rubber stamp court, can monitor and record your every move without a warrant, and can shoot unarmed citizens who are sitting, laying down, or running away with impunity I consider that to be a police state. Not sure what else to call it.
You cannot avoid the police state by running away to Amtrak. Sooner or later the ever growing security apparatus will simply follow the crowd wherever it may go next. My supposedly private vehicle travel is routinely monitored by conventional cameras, infrared cameras, OCR license plate recorders, stationary and mobile radar, radio frequency identification collection, and even fake cell phone towers.
When I travel down the highway my vehicle is photographed and recorded by over a dozen different identification devices as I'm stopped and subjected to unwarranted drug and contraband inspections using questionable discovery techniques and my legal status is routinely questioned. I suppose we could call this a transitory "surveillance state" if it really makes you feel that much better. As for North Korea, that is a dictatorship. A status we do not currently live under, but should the current administration make good on previous threats to imprison the opposition I would be hard pressed to see otherwise.