(Ed. Note: Nancy Oden is a top U.S. Green Party official and a member of the party’s coordinating committee. An organic farmer, peace activist, and all-around firebrand, she lives in Jonesboro, Maine.)
“Just a few weeks ago I had a piece in the Bangor paper. It’s on our website… I submitted it under my name alone. It’s a fairly radical piece; that’s what I do. I’m a political and environmental activist.
“I walked into the Bangor airport. What I saw was National Guard folks all over carrying machine guns… The atmosphere was very tense… This was Thursday… I went over to the American Airlines ticket counter way down at the end. Nobody else was there, except the clerk. I gave him my name. He didn’t even ask for photo ID. It was almost like they were expecting me. He put it into the computer. He stayed on the computer a long time, like 10 minutes.
“He put an S on the boarding pass, for search. He said, ‘You’ve been picked for having your bag searched.’ … I said to him, ‘This wasn’t random, was it?’ He said, ‘No you were in there to be searched, no matter what.’ I went over to baggage to put my bags through the X-ray and then went into the boarding area.
“There was this National Guard guy there. He yells over at me, so everyone can hear, ‘Bring your bags over here.’ You know how they are when they’re all puffed up with themselves. He said, ‘Hurry up,’ so I slowed down some more.
“I put my bags on the table. The two women employees were standing there. [I tried to help them with a stuck zipper.] He grabbed my left arm, he started yelling in my face, ‘Don’t you know what happened? Sep. 11, don’t you know thousands of people died?’ I said, ‘You can’t do that.’ He went to grab my arm, and I said, ‘Don’t touch me.’ I saw an older airline guy shake his head, ‘No,’ and he backed off.
“That insulted his little manhood. He could not force me to listen to his idiot ideas on Sep. 11, whatever it was he wanted to say. So he was angry. I hadn’t done anything except pull away from him… I think he was trying to provoke me. They did the wand thing, they were done, and I heard him say real soft, ‘Don’t let her on the plane,’ like he was talking to himself.
“Then I go to get on the plane since we’re all done and everything, and the American Airlines ticket guy says,’ You can’t get on the plane.’ I say, ‘Why not?’ … He says, ‘Because this guy says you didn’t cooperate with the search.’ … I said, ‘Didn’t you see him grab my arm?’ He said, ‘No, your back was to me.’
“He said, ‘Maybe we can get you on the 4:00 plane, it’s the last one today.’ I felt, okay, let’s put up with this aggravation now and I’ll go to Chicago and we’ll see what we can do… Then this little guard guy, it wasn’t enough to stop me, wasn’t done with me. He said, ‘Come with me.’ I followed very slowly, I sat down for a while. I said I’m carrying these bags; I need a rest… It’s called passive resistance.
“He went and found the airport police to come and talk with me. He went and got six other National Guard guys and they all approached me. Here are these six untrained, ignorant, don’t-know-how-to-deal-with-the-public, machine-gun-armed young guys in their camouflage suits with their military gear hanging off of it.
“I looked up and started laughing, ‘Is all this for me, guys? What is this about?’ There was this big burly guy, he was in front. He said, ‘You didn’t cooperate with the search.’ … I said what he did was grabbed my arm, and I backed away… He said he only hit your arm. I said even if that’s all he did, he’s not allowed to do that. He can’t hit my arm and demand I listen to him.
“They had the airport policeman tell me, ‘You’re not flying out of this airport today.’ … Of course I had cooperated; why do I care if they search my bags? … What I didn’t like was being singled out because of my political views. They couldn’t arrest me because there was no reason for that. They had people who saw there was nothing to arrest me for. They wanted to get back at me somehow because I was not a subservient female, because I questioned their manhood.
“I went to the American Airlines guy and said, ‘Is this just today?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ One clerk said, ‘You could drive to Boston [five hours away] and see if you can get out of there.’
“I never made it out of Bangor. I had to turn around and drive 100 miles back home… The fact that they gave the other airlines my name… They told me they did that… That’s incredible.”
Declan McCullagh is the politics editor for Wired. He also runs Politech, the excellent and informative politics and technology mailing list. Declan McCullagh’s photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/ To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html