Memory lapses

John Garrison, Chief Ranger of the Blue Ridge Parkway, promises he will "get to the bottom" of the run-in I had with members of his Criminal Interdiction Team during FloydFest.

Of course, he says, it may take a while.

John Garrison, Chief Ranger of the Blue Ridge Parkway, promises he will "get to the bottom" of the run-in I had with members of his Criminal Interdiction Team during FloydFest.

Of course, he says, it may take a while.

Interesting. There are five officers on the team. He says he’s already talked to them and they deny any incident took place. Actually, what they say is they "have no recollection" of an encounter with a photographer.

In 40 years of covering politicians and federal bureaucrats, including 23 years in Washington, I have heard such language before:

"I have no recollection of that event Senator." (Watergate hearings)

"I have no memory of that situation at this point in time (Iran-Contra hearings)

"I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky," (Bill Clinton)

When Todd Foster, managing editor of the Bristol Herald-Courier, called Garrison this week to ask about the incident, the Chief Ranger told Foster that I was "dodging phone calls from me and others" at the Parkway offices in Asheville.

So I picked up the phone and called Chief Ranger Garrison.

"What do you mean I’ve been dodging you and others," I demanded in a surly tone of voice. "I have no record of phone calls, voice mail or email from you."

Ranger Garrison quickly retreated.

"Oh, I didn’t say you were dodging calls from me," he said. "I meant others in my office."

"What others? The only phone call I’ve received is from your Assistant Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett and I called him back."

He seemed surprised by that.

"You did? Well I was out of the country during the incident and I’m trying to follow up on it."

"I see. So I couldn’t dodge phone calls from you because you weren’t here to make any phone calls."

"I never said you were dodging calls from me."

Foster says otherwise and I believe him. My most recent encounters with Park Rangers from Asheville lead me to believe that honesty is not high on their list of priorities.

Garrison also claims the CIT unit was not recalled after Congressman Rick Boucher intervened when his office was flooded with complaints about Ranger harassment of festival goers but Cong. Boucher says he was told by Garrison’s bosses that the unit was, in fact recalled. They were conspicuously absent Saturday as only Virginia State Police patrolled the Parkway.

Will an investigation turn up anything? It could but I doubt it will. The Park Rangers have already concluded that their Gestapo-like actions during the festival were "not excessive," even though more respected law enforcement officers like Floyd County Sheriff Shannon Zeman and Virginia State Trooper Andrew O’Connor say they were.

Bureaucrats protect their own and truth is not part of the equation. That’s the way things work.

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6 Responses

  1. Doug,

    This is nothing new. A couple of years ago I was down towards Linville Falls, pulled over in a wide spot in the road, taking in the view. Three cop cars pulled up and zoomed in on a young couple picnicking on a blanket with their dog.

    Terrorism in action. They left after about 20 minutes of pawing through the picnic gear. No arrests. No obvious law-breaking at all. The rangers were obviously targeting 20-year-olds, just because they could.

  2. Have Garrison assemble all the rangers deployed to Floyd in that time frame and you can point out the one who you spoke with. Post if you need a few letters sent to move this along. The stonewalling suggests a larger problem.

  3. I sure hope folks don’t give up on this incident and let it blow over. The day before Floydfest, a couple in Asheville endured similar (albeit) more brutal harassment for protesting the gov by hanging a flag upside down. Although this represents Distress, and in no way desecration, the story of their treatment can be found here.

    People need to know that our most basic Constitutional freedoms are being attacked by the disturbing Patriot Act, and that it has nothing to do with keeping ‘us safe’ from terrorists. It does have everything to do with keeping ‘us in line’, a handy tool for gov types to use against it’s own people. Maybe folks will wake up to the fact that this admin is not ‘For the People’ — it only serves itself.

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