Getting the Hater Arrested
This article is written with much thanks to the Washington D.C. parks department.
A good part of my day was already spent at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. I won’t go into too many details though it goes kind of like this: we can’t get an appointment in New York where we’re supposed to go so we write to the embassy in D.C. and receive a reply saying we can come there instead. We get there – “you’re in the wrong place”. We were supposed to fill out some form that doesn’t exist anywhere but behind the plexiglass of the window for help and the person on the other side doesn’t know the form exists either. Thankfully there’s a helpful supervisor and we leave the embassy with the form, send it to the right places and get it back. We forward it to the embassy by email and on the subway we think, “we traveled all the way to D.C. Maybe we should take the time to go back to the embassy to make sure they have what they need now.”
We go back – now there’s a line … we sit, we entertain ourselves with jokes and conversations with all the other New Yorkers who have had their phones taken away so we can chat about how they also traveled all the way to D.C. to get an appointment and also are missing some form. (In one case a large family wasn’t allowed on a plane because they were missing some form they too didn’t know existed.) One by one, the embassy staff screams at each American for failing to have this or that while each new Americans to enter the waiting room wonders why there’s no line or “take a number” system. Strangely, it’s like we’re all family anyway as if it’s really the warm embrace of a close family member with a short fuse who you know actually loves you and is going to take care of you.
It was now time for lunch at about 3pm at the only kosher restaurant in Washington D.C. After that it was about a 20 minute walk to the LIncoln – though tempted, I chose not to start debates with tourists about how Lincoln made 50,000 people disappear, arrested most of the legislature of Maryland so they couldn’t vote, and ordered the largest execution of Indians.
After not doing that it was on to a walk past the reflecting pool … one more block, make a right, and there’s the WWII memorial. I’m at that block corner I wait for the light to turn and some guy with no shirt on approaches from behind, says some crazy guy stuff I’m not really paying attention to … I’m experienced at walking through Manhattan. Maybe he’s giving a hard time to others, I don’t know. In Manhattan we just ignore these people because they’re common and move on. As I’m crossing he gets in front of me, turns around, shows me his Magen Dovid [star of David] tattoo on his chest [tattoos are prohibited in Jewish law, by the way] and says, “Israel is the way it is because of Jews like you!”
No. No. Now you’ve gone too far! Granted, if you’re an anti-semite you stink at anti-semitism. Rather, no – I just spent all day dealing with Israeli bureaucracy. I didn’t make a 3.5 hr trip to spend 5 hours trying to get a visa all to be told that’s my fault! No! (… even if I actually enjoyed the experience mingling with other Jews of all kinds … well, all kinds we had to avoid the consulate in New York).
Anyway, I keep walking across the street and then turn towards the WWII memorial … the guy sees me again and runs across the street, through cars, at me. La de da … going to keep walking and he’ll go away like all the other crazies … nope … this one has a problem with his Jewish mother apparently. “I’ll date whatever girlfriend I want! You can’t tell me not to!” He’s getting louder … I just keep going … not sure quite what his rant is about and then he goes in front of me and says, “I’ll cut both your heads off if you go any further!”
So… alright … not quite sure why I wasn’t scared of the guy or maybe I’ve seen and read enough to think the best thing to do is stay calm and don’t give the animal a reason to attack. Yeah, let’s call the police about now. I take out my phone. Ah! It’s like a flaming stick on a wolf … backs off for a bit.
Well, I could show him my back and turn around … not the best idea (plus… you know, my ego). Quick left turn instead – I’m going to walk straight towards civilization – the Washington monument is surely reflective of this. It’s like home base in a game of tag, right?
The phone has scared him away anyway. Wait … nope. He’s walking parallel to me further down. Bah. I pull out my phone again to call the police for real this time. He yells something about he’s not scared of pictures I take of him and I can call whoever I want.
Pictures! Duh! So I dial 9-1-1 and take some pictures while waiting for an answer. I tell the operator my predicament … they say walk to the Washington monument <click>. Gee, thanks. The phone stays next to my ear anyway so he thinks I’m on the phone … he shoots off away from me. Seems the phone thing is really scary to him. He’s been done this road before. (The actual and metaphorical one.)
Knock, knock … goes me on the window to the closed Washington monument. The security guard inside shows the “chop your head off” sign which thankfully I interpret as “we’re closed” and not another person who is threatening me with that. She sees my persistence, comes to the door, and I’m giving my statement and sharing the photos with the police. “We may call you if we hear anything.”
Surprisingly, about ten minutes later – I do. I almost didn’t even answer the call because it wasn’t from a D.C. area code – it appeared to likely be a work call given the NJ area code … then I remember the officer shared with me that he used to live in NJ and I took the call.
“We need you for identification. Can you come back?”
There’s a first time for everything that happens at least once. This is the first time I got into a police car on the lawn surrounding the Washington monument. “Sir, I can’t believe it! In Manhattan such a guy would never be found!” He responds with, “yeah, well … we don’t see a lot of action around here” and the department’s feeling excitement that they got a guy. This officer had shared my photos and description with every parks department officer and one of the officers spotted the guy due to his angled “coif”. (I learned a new word that day.) Had crazy coif guy simply gone out of the D.C. parks and into a street it would have been out of their jurisdiction and then nothing.
So this is how it works – they have the guy facing the road where they caught him (apparently he ran … that’s not suspicious or anything…). His hands are cuffed behind his back and the officer drives past him with me looking out the passenger side window. That’s the guy!
Next I wrote out my full victim statement and another nice officer with a very Jewish name gave me a ride back to my hotel while we converse about his time in Iraq, watching security cameras in an empty monument, and the Birthright trips he runs. Good times.
They want to know if I want to press charges. Well, on the one hand I was targeted for being a religious Jew … on the other hand, the Knesset [parliament] in Israel would say the same thing to each other … religious to secular and secular to religious. On the other other hand … he did threaten to hurt me. On the other, other, other hand … this is probably a schizophrenic who just needs “convincing” to take his medicine. The officer tells me he’s probably going to a mental institution and I’m asked quite a few times by quite a few people, “Was anyone with you?” My word against his is probably not going to get a conviction and it seems the prosecutors office doesn’t want to spend the time trying. Most federal hate crimes aren’t prosecuted and this one is a hard to prove misdeamonor (low level offense). They tell me he already has lots of other charges against him anyway and hopefully he’s now off the street.
At the very least, crazy coif had to go to jail for a day. That seems fitting enough.
The parks department and all the officers I had contacted with were extremely professional and just all around nice guys. They were great to work with and have my complete respect.
To end my day out I took a taxi to the synagogue for Mincha/Maariv [afternoon/night prayers]. The driver from Sierra Leone said “you people have a lot of money.” I pressed to say what he meant … “people from New Jersey?”; “people who take taxis” … he said, “you know… Jews…”.
Turned out he wasn’t an anti-semite either … he was envious of Jews who help each other out and work hard whereas those from his country couldn’t care less about your pain and struggles.
I explained to the driver that many Jews spend their days learning Torah and have very little money and then went into shul to pray.
Visiting monuments doesn’t have to be boring.