Stories of citizen mistreatment have abounded during the first week of the federal government shutdown. From World War II veterans being threatened with arrest for visiting the memorial dedicated to their service to a man being fined $100 for taking a jog at Valley Forge National Historical Park, it has become obvious that this administration intends to make this congressional stalemate as difficult as possible for the average citizen.
One of the most unconscionable incidents of shutdown enforcement involved a group of senior citizens on a tour of the nation’s landmarks. The group pulled into Yellowstone National Guard just before the shutdown took effect and, according to one tourist, the vacation quickly devolved into a confusing, frightening experience.
“It was like they brought out the armed forces,” said Pat Vaillancort, explaining the group was locked inside a hotel for several hours under the authority of park rangers with firearms.
Many on the tour, including some from foreign countries, believed they were under arrest, she added.
Though they were ultimately allowed to stay for a short time, given the fact they had reservations at the hotel, Vaillancort said that the entire experience was sullied by the harsh actions of federal authorities.
The group of about 50 tourists was prohibited from any forms of recreation while on the property. When a herd of bison came near, a ranger informed passengers that they were prohibited from taking photos.
When tour guide Gordon Hodgson tried to explain the situation, Vaillancort said the ranger “responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive.”
Unsurprisingly, famous sites such as the Old Faithful geyser were closed and protected by barricades and park staff. The group was not even allowed to go outside once at the hotel.
When the group finally left the park, they were told they could not stop for any reason until their bus had left federal land. This restriction included restroom stops during the nearly three hour trek to a nearby town, Vaillancort said.
Hodgson later described the park rangers’ actions as “Gestapo tactics,” and Vaillancort said that many of those on the trip left with a negative impression of the U.S.
“A lot of people who were foreign said they wouldn’t come back,” she noted.
This unjustifiable treatment of elderly tourists certainly lends credence to one park ranger’s accusation that he and his colleagues were “told to make life as difficult for people as we can.”
–Western Journalism staff writer
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