UPDATE: 07/30: Talked with Congressman Rick Boucher twice this afternoon. He is very upset over the way the Park Rangers treated festival goers and promises to call in the head of the Parkway and make it clear "that nothing like this can ever be allowed to happen again." I’ve worked with Boucher enough to know that when he gets mad, heads roll. Stay tuned. More to follow.
The National Park Service Friday recalled its overzealous Criminal Interdiction Team (CIT) and ordered them to return to Asheville, putting an end to the squad’s harassment of FloydFest patrons. Virginia State Troopers now patrol the Parkway and provide enforcement until the festival ends Sunday.
Congressman Rick Boucher’s office received a number of angry calls Thursday and Friday about the Park Police’s abuse of power in stopping festival goers on the flimsiest of pretenses (beads hanging from a rear view mirror, a bolt missing from a license plates, etc.) and then searching the cars, luggage, back packs, coolers and other personal belongings.
As I reported earlier, one of these "officers" threatened me with arrest under the controversial USA Patriot Act when I tried to photograph his questionable search of a vehicle. I called Park Service administrators in Roanoke and Asheville Friday but got a firm "no comment" in return. I called Boucher’s office and was promised the Congressman "was checking into the matter."
The Congressman’s chief of staff called the Acting Chief Park Ranger and demanded to know what the hell was going on. By Saturday morning, the Rangers were back in Asheville.
The actions of the National Park Service left a sour taste in a lot of mouths, including Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman, who was pulled over and harassed by the CIT unit Wednesday night.
Explanations are needed and apologies are due.