Via Breitbart and Ace, who’s demanding that the National Park Service pay some sort of price for serving as “the shock troops of the punitive bureaucracy” through all of this. I’ve written similar things over the past week, and right now I can’t understand why either of us would bother. They’re not going to pay any price. We all know it. Issa will haul the director and his deputies before the Oversight Committee and they’ll mouth the requisite perfunctory regret and warnings not to judge the whole department by the behavior of a few “overzealous” rangers. Maybe someone will receive a few weeks or months of “administrative leave,” i.e. paid vacation, a la Lois Lerner, but then he’ll be quietly reinstated when no one’s paying attention anymore. News outlets and bloggers will get a few days of content out of it when the hearings are being held and then that’ll be that. Nothing will change. No lessons will be learned. No scalps will be taken. That’s how it goes now. If anything, the White House will be more reluctant to fire someone over this than they were over the IRS scandal because ranger-enforced shutdown theater helps them spread the liberal message that closing the government is an unconscionable hardship.
No one’s going to pay for this. Even if it involves a ranger with a gun warning your grandma to get back in her hotel and away from the scenery.
The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos.
“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.
The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park’s premier lodge located adjacent to the park’s most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site — barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.
“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”
Supposedly, on their way out of the park, the tour guide wanted to pull over at a dude ranch inside the perimeter so that the seniors onboard could use the restrooms there — but couldn’t, because the park rangers told the dude ranch that its license would be revoked if they permitted it. So unbelievable is all this, even by the standards of NPS behavior over the past week, that I doubted whether it was true. But there’s corroborating evidence for at least some of it: The tour guide was interviewed by a different newspaper a few days ago and accused the Park Service of — wait for it — “Gestapo tactics.”
Hodgson said in a phone interview Monday that a ranger pulled up behind the bus and told him he would have to get everyone back on the bus — recreation in Yellowstone was not allowed.
“She told me you need to return to your hotel and stay there,” Hodgson said. “This is just Gestapo tactics. We paid a lot to get in. All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
Hodgson said the ranger told him he could be convicted of trespassing if he disobeyed.
“The national parks belong to the people,” he said. “This isn’t right.”
He didn’t mention armed rangers outside the hotel, but he was told that “his group would not be allowed to walk on any of the boardwalks located just outside their hotel, or visit any other geyser basins in the area.” All they could do, per Hodgson, was eat dinner in the dining room, which squares with the claim that rangers wouldn’t let guests inside leave until they were ready to leave the park altogether. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” said an anonymous ranger to Wesley Pruden last week. Mission accomplished.
The only redress here, I think, is for tourists to sue. They’d probably lose, but it’ll be useful to know as a matter of law that national parks belong to the National Park Service and not to the public. I’m curious as can be to see a judge explain how trespassing laws don’t apply to park visitors who are engaged in “First Amendment activities” but do apply to tourist photography, which, as a somewhat artistic endeavor, would seem to fall pretty squarely within the First Amendment. At the very least, the bad press from the suit would do some much-deserved damage to the agency’s reputation. Which, it seems, they’re increasingly worried about:
Large applause as Park police moved barricades in front of Lincoln. Lieutenant says it was a "command decision." pic.twitter.com/bUl4n0VT0V
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) October 8, 2013
Good news. Keep blogging the ugly stuff and maybe there’ll be more.