Senior citizens at Yellowstone National Park found themselves placed under lock and key by armed Park Service agents when the government went into a partial shutdown earlier this month, the Eagle Tribune reported Tuesday. The experience was so harrowing, the tour guide compared the Rangers' actions to tactics used by the Gestapo.
Pat Vaillancourt, a resident of Salisbury, Mass., said that what she witnessed was an ugly spectacle that "made her embarrassed, angry and heartbroken for her country."
According to the Tribune, Vaillancourt, along with about four dozen others -- including visitors from Japan, Australia and Canada -- were locked in a hotel at the park under armed guard.
The tourists were treated so harshly by armed park employees, she said, that some of the foreign tourists thought they were under arrest.
Eventually, the tourists were allowed to leave, but the bus was not allowed to stop during the two-and-a-half hour drive -- not even for restroom breaks.
“We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control," Vaillancourt said. “It was like they brought out the armed forces. Nobody was saying, ‘we’re sorry,’ it was all like..., ” she added, clenching her fist and banging it against her forearm.
Her visit to Yellowstone was part of a nine-day tour of western parks.
At one point, the bus stopped when a large herd of bison passed by.
Seniors filed out to take photos of the animals, but were stopped by Park Rangers who ordered them back on the bus, telling them they were not allowed to "recreate."
The tour guide, who, according to the Tribune, had paid $300 for the right to bring the visitors into the park, said the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking pictures.
“She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt recalled.
The bus made its way to the Old Faithful Inn, a lodge near the famous geyser which was blocked by barricades.
The seniors were locked inside the hotel and armed guards were stationed at the door.
“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” Vaillancourt said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”
Tour director Gordon Hodgson told the Livingston Enterprise the group was ordered to stay off the boardwalks just outside their hotel, and were forbidden from visiting any other geyser basins in the area.
“This is just Gestapo tactics," he said. "We paid a lot to get in. All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
According to Hodgson's account, the ranger said he could be convicted of trespassing if he disobeyed orders.
Vaillancourt said the foreign visitors were shocked at the treatment they received, and some said they would never come back to the United States.
Since the partial government shutdown -- prompted by Sen. Harry Reid's refusal to consider any GOP proposal to keep the government funded -- the Park Service has come under fire for its heavy-handed treatment of law-abiding citizens.
One unidentified Ranger told the Washington Times they were ordered to come down hard on Americans.
“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can," the Ranger said. "It’s disgusting.”
The National Park Service has closed memorials to veterans, blocked privately-owned businesses and evicted senior citizens from their homes as part of Obama's strategy to inflict pain on average Americans.
Hodgson said he intends to contact his representative in Washington about the ordeal.
“I am not a happy camper," he said.
Vaillancourt recalled her father's experience as a POW in World War II.
The Tribune noted:
“My father took a lot of crap from the Japanese,” she recalled, her eyes welling with tears. “Every day they made him bow to the Japanese flag. But he stood up to them.
“He always said to stand up for what you believe in, and don’t let them push you around,” she said, adding she was sad to see “fear, guns and control” turned on citizens in her own country.
Examiner's Steven H. Ahle reported Monday that House Republicans intend to investigate reports of abuse by the Park Service.
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