Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Delmar, NY : Police State ?

George Bush's culture of fear has really taken hold. It's come to this: Ken and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood yesterday. The friends we're staying with live in a nice Delmar residential neighborhood with a beautiful mix of architectural styles and large mature trees.

This is a town where I spent much of my youth; I went to day care here, I went to elementary school here, I graduated from the local high school. My parents and grandparents are buried here.

Many of the houses in this neighborhood have elaborate halloween displays in their front yards. It was Columbus Day and many residents were out working in their yards, raking leaves and pruning.

A front yard halloween display in Delmar, NY. Perhaps there should be another headstone with the following inscription: "Here lies Freedom - Killed by Fear."

We took some photos of houses and holiday displays like this one (above). Suddenly two police cars drove up and parked in front of us. One officer got out and I said hi. He scowled and barked, "What are you doing?" I replied that we were taking a walk, not knowing what was going on. I mean, he could have said, "Excuse me sir, we've had a call and we're just checking it out." But no, he was agressive and rude.

He told us to step in front of the car and proceeded to interrogate us about our identities (asking for ID) and then ran us through a police check. I told him I was visiting my friends on such-and-such a street and that I had grown up in this very neighborhood. He said that someone called them because they saw two men taking photos of houses. He said that this was a nice residential neighborhood where the people, you know (I don't know - he didn't finish the sentence). After about ten minutes consulting by radio with headquarters, he told us we checked out and we could go, but not to take any more pictures.

We were quite upset. I cannot believe there is a law against taking pictures on public streets in Delmar. We were not trespassing on anyone's property; we were in the public right of way admiring the elaborate holiday decorations in the yards. And, it must be said, we are just two average looking white guys in a average white neighborhood.

This experience kind of depressed me. Are people here so afraid that they call the police when someone they don't recognize walks down their street? Don't the police tell them that walking in a neighborhood is not a crime and to just calm down? This is not a gated community. It's a relatively affluent suburb of Albany with a population of well over 16,000 and it's part of a larger metropolitan area of over 700,000 people. We were two blocks from the little downtown, and we could see the Town Hall from the point where the police stopped us.

Amy H. talked about the fear in America in her blog last week. Now I've experienced it, too. This is not the same Delmar, nor the same America, that I grew up in. And it hasn't changed for the better.

5 comments:

  1. Très intéressant, ce compte-rendu ! Merci pour ce témoignage ! Nous suivons votre périple grâce au blog ! Bises. Marie

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  2. You should have pulled out your guns and...

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  3. Walt, I just can't believe that! But at the same time, I can. The press in America is scaring people silly. And silly is exactly how people are acting. I agree with you - how depressing. You'll be happy to get back to the Loire, I'm sure.

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  4. I'm sorry, Walt, that you and Ken had such a terrible experience. Unfortunately, I am not surprised. In areas where Bush is speaking, there have been numerous cases of unwarranted arrests. There is fear in the U.S., fear of terror without knowing what it is. I don't believe conditions are that bad in the West, certainly not in CA. But the country is terribly polarized in a very unhealthy way. Take pictures. Best, Gabby

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  5. Marie - Merci !

    Amy - We will be happy to get back to the Loire. But we have 3 more weeks in the states! Next up: DC, NC, AL, IL.

    Gabby - I'm not surprised about the increased arrests where the preznit speaks. We are not deterred, however, and continue to snap photos... just not in Delmar!

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