Nazi Germany 1939 or Newark 2003?

by Jule Spohn

Hello everyone. I just got home from spending a few hours on a walking tour of Newark's waterfront, down behind, and along side of Penn Station, conducted by Newark's Historian, and Assistant Director of the Newark Public Library, Charles Cummings. There were about 35 of us who came along for this very interesting tour.

It got off to a "rough" start to say the least - all in the name of "HOMELAND SECURITY." I got to Penn Station about a half hour before the rest of the people got there and decided to take some photo's of the wonderful art-deco figures of various periods of transportation which surround the very beautiful ceiling in the main waiting area. After taking a few pictures, one of the New Jersey Transit Police came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was born in, and live in this city, and that I was just taking some photo's of the beautiful art work. He told me that I couldn't do it. I asked him if that was in writing and he brought me along to his Sergeant, where the same conversation continued, and the sergeant told me that after 911 all of the security has been tightened up. I told him that this is going too far when the average, decent citizen of this country, can't ever walk around his how city and take photographs of it's historic items. I told him that I would refrain from taking any further photo's inside of the building.

When the tour started and we were already well outside of the building walking along the river, out on what will become the pedestrian walkway, which is being funded by Green Acres funding, another N. J. Transit cop, one of the few who came up to me inside, came up to our group and questioned what we were doing back there. Charles Cummings explained who he was and what we were doing there and then had to give this guy his drivers license and some other form of identification.

Several months ago I was over taking some photo's of the beautiful eagle in the public courtyard of the PSE&G building when one of there security guards came over to me and told me I could not take photo's there. I told him this is a public area and he could not stop me from taking photo's. He called the Newark Police and about ten minutes later, by which time I was across the street taking photo's in Military Park, a Newark cop pulled up and called me over and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was born in this city, my family has been here for over 150 years, and that since I am in an open public space they cannot stop me from taking pictures - which he didn't.

My friends, we are losing all of our personal freedoms in this country today, all in the misguided name of "HOMELAND DEFENSE." These cops, and other types of security people, are pushing this think too far. Somewhere along the line I hope the courts step in and protect the average persons right to live in a city without fear of police harassment.

We were a group of all white people, with ages ranging from those in their 20's to some in their 60's and 70's. All were dressed very neatly. Cops, and other security people should be able to use a little common sense when it comes to stopping the average person on the streets today.

I must stop now because my blood pressure is rising.

I took a photo of Charles Cummings being questioned by the policeman and I will make a copy and sent it along the to Star Ledger in a day or so.


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