general stuff · January 12, 2007 1

Jaywalking, a serious offence in America

Now that I live in England, I don’t go back to the States often.  My last vist was toward the tail end of 2005 to see my mom and pop.  I remember landing at Logan airport in Boston and getting the distinct feel that I had dropped into a police state.  Living in Britain, you don’t see many guns.  The police don’t carry them as a rule.  So I had a bit of a culture shock seeing so many men running around with guns.  The cops, the army, even the baggage handlers had guns!

That said, I wasn’t surprised to see the article in the Times yesterday about Professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto who got jumped by five armed cops for jaywalking in Atlanta, Georgia.  He was there attending an American History conference and while crossing a street between two of the conference buildings, a cop approached him.  But according to Professor Armesto, the cop didn’t look like a cop.

“I didn’t appreciate the gravity of the offence.  And I didn’t recognise him as a policeman.  He was wearing…a bomber jacket, like a jerkin,” he said.

The cop asked him for ID.  He asked the cop for ID.  Before he knew it, he was under arrest.

“This young man kicked my legs from under me, wrenched me around, wrenched my arms behind my back, handcuffed me,” he said. 

Like anyone being wrongly treated, the professor tried to protest and struggle free from the ground.  The cop called for back up.  “I had five burly policemen pinioning me to ground.”

Armesto wasn’t the only historian arrested that day for jaywalking.  Does the Atlanta police force have so little crime in the city that they have to sit in ambush waiting for people to jaywalk so they can arrest them and issue them a fine? We send our troops thousands of miles away from home to foreign lands to stop citizens of other countries from being brutally treated and yet here I am sat staring at a picture of five armed cops brutally manhandling a visiting professor.  Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with this picture?

Ok, a few bad apples, and all that, but is it really? When I was in the States, I travelled from Boston to Georgia and in all the cities I visited in between, there was this pervasive feeling of uneasiness on the streets.  I am an American through and through, but I tell you, I couldn’t wait to get back to England.

Of course Youtube, being the mass media of the public, has a video from Professor Armesto, explaining his ordeal.


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