Cowboy America

25 Feb 2012

Okay, a little bit of background first.

I'm a french guy studying in Ontario, Canada for a year-exchange. I've watched a lot of fucked up cop abuse videos on reddit, read tons of tazed guys stories... I've also read this thread on HackerNews and got a bit scared thinking about crossing the border.

So, one week ago I finally crossed the border. I was a bit nervous because of the HN story and what some friends told me. It wasn't that bad (apart that I got scammed by a legal website that charges you extra to get an ESTA). The border-police just asked me a few questions, in a really serious tone "why are you coming to America? Where are you staying? Who is your friend?". I was prepared so I wasn't surprised and answered pretty fast and in a natural manner. I was done with it, had to pay 6$ more and was on my way to spend a wonderful week in New York. seeing the streets I've once visited (13 years ago) but without the world trade center this time.

Journey was great, until last night. I don't usually write in english here but I thought it would be more appropriate... So pardon my writing, I would be glad to get corrected as I've never taken composition in english.

01:00 A.M. We get out of a bar/club where we've been drinking for a few hours. We get to this pharmacy across the street, and by the way, I find that fucked up that pharmacies in America sell cigarettes and alcohol 24/7. Anyway, my friends buy alcohol, I just buy a delicious wasabi chicken sandwich (my excuse is that I already drank enough that night and wanted to sober up a little). We get out, walk for a while.

I'm in mid-sandwich when I see a cop getting out of a cab. I remember thinking to myself "what is that policeman doing in a taxi?". Then I realize that maybe my friends are drinking the alcohol they just bought (and I've heard that it's forbidden to drink in public in America). I look at them and see the one who is hosting me drinking from the bottle (which was in a paper bag, but as we've all seen the movies, it's pretty obvious that it is alcohol).

Now it's not one but maybe 4 cops that are shouting at my friends repeatedly and running at them.

We're a group of 6 people but the 2 walking in front drinking don't notice that someone is telling them to stop. Finally a NYPD guy decides to push my friend against a wall, the latter is surprised and don't really understand what's happening to him. The other one gets grabbed by the cop and starts saying things like "don't touch me, I'm just smoking, you don't have a right to touch me like that". Of course, cops just tackled him to the ground and handcuffed him.

At that point I really want to grab my camera and film the scene, but then I remember that in some states in America you're not allowed to do that. It's also a new camera and I don't really want it to get smashed. I can see a guy across the street filming us anyway (and they will later tell him to stop according to my friend).

Then I also start remembering those videos of the police tazing people for no reasons, I remember saying to my friend "hey man don't do anything stupid, cops taze people here".

One guy in blue starts pushing us toward a fence so we can't see what's happening and ask us to put our hands in front of us. The boyfriend of the one getting handcuffed starts freaking out and shouting at the cops "what are you doing? you have no rights to do that", as he gets ignored he starts calling someone (I believe his lawyer) asking him in english what he can do in this situation. I guess not the smartest of his moves, they don't like it and decide to take his cellphone and to handcuff him as well.

So now we have those two guys getting arrested and getting thrown in a different car, and to top it all, new cops are arriving.

I'm pretty high, thinking everything is so surreal. I'm still eating my sandwich while watching the scene. The mighty authority doesn't seem to like it, grab my sandwich and throw it on the ground.

I complain as it was a 5$ sandwich, and it was very good. They ignore me.

I start laughing, because you know, it's just ridiculous. My friend sees me losing it so he starts laughing as well. The cops bring us back to reality:

They then searched us, grabbed our wallets and started looking into it.

I turned around, because I didn't want him to look at my wallet and get something without me being aware of (and I thought it was legitimate).

He forced me to face the wall again. And I recall jokingly telling him:

Apparently we can't talk to them, we're treated like criminals.

One gives a call, to the police station I think. "4Cs and 2"... Can't hear the rest. I'm asking the others in french

Then the police tell us to shut the fuck up one more time.

Finally after waiting for a while, one new cop shows up. He's very strict, talking to us in a very bad manner, telling us we're convoked in a trial in May. I tell the guy I'm here visiting a friend, that I have to go back to Canada and that even in May I will then be back in France. He tells me that if I don't go to this trial I will get arrested next time I come to the US.

They leave us without telling us anything about where our friends are and what they're getting into (they got released at 4am). I shout at them "you're giving a very nice image of America" and one cop answers "just go back to your country".

Since I was a kid I've always wanted to work at NASA, maybe live in the silicon valley, go party in Las Vegas... I guess I have to say goodbye to those dreams forever.

EDIT: Okay apparently I over reacted, getting convoked to a court in the US is a normal thing.

If I understand correctly, the cops were just douche to give us the ticket while we weren't doing anything wrong (the 4 of us who were not drinking).

If I don't show up in court, I can get arrested in the New York state and put in jail while waiting for a new court (that will cost me a lot). If I get arrested in another state, they can bring me back to New York and do the same thing, although they might just drop it because it's a hassle.

The easy way is to plaid guilty by mail and pay a 25$ fine.

Which I'm gonna do, because of course I want to be able to go back in America, for whatever good or bad reason life might later bring me.