For the second year in a row, the National Park Service police brought in their "special interdiction team" from Asheville to harass attendees of FloydFest. It is a despicable display of government abuse of power and a waste of yours and my tax dollars.
After passing two carloads of young people pulled over by the park police’s gestapo-like tactics, I stopped to take photos of a park service officer who was going through everything in a couple’s Jeep Cherokee — cooler, backpacks, glove boxes and consoles.
As I approached the scene, the park service cop wheeled around, pointed at me and said "Sir, if you raise that camera to take a photograph I will place you under arrest."
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Under arrest? I’ve been shooting photos on the Blue Ridge Parkway since before this kid’s father was born. I muttered somethng about this being a public thoroughfare and I was a working journalist doing my job.
"Sir," he retorted, "this is U.S. government property and under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act you cannot take photographs of official government activity without authorization. Put your camera down now!"
USA Patriot Act? The rights-robbing law that the Bush administration uses to detain citizens without due process, ship people off to the Gitmo and keep critics of the the President from flying on commercial airlines? That Patriot Act?
"Sir, you have 15 seconds to leave or you are under arrest." He had his hand on his gun so I left. I saw the sign above about a mile from the scene and stopped to shoot it, wondering is another Park Service Cop would come by and arrest me for taking photos of a sign.
At FloydFest Thursday evening, a number of people told me about their run-ins with the Park Service goon squad. They are looking for any "probable cause" to pull people over and search their car. One girl was stopped because she had beads hanging from her rear view mirror. Another for having just one bolt holding his license plate (she was ticketed for "improper equipment"). Still another for "driving in a suspicious manner."
A story floating around the festival Thursday night said this same squad pulled Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman over Wednesday night for speeding on the Parkway. I haven’t had a chance to confirm that one yet but will when I see Shannon.
Two warnings: Avoid the Parkway if you can. Take Canning Factory Road to Black Ridge Road to the remote parking lots. You have on-site parking at the Festival, take Black Ridge and cross the Parkway there to enter the event.
If you get nailed by these storm troopers, call Floyd attorney Jonathan Rogers next week and tell him about it. He’s willing to file a class-action suit against the Park Service for their gestapo-like tactics.