Let's hear it for the Yellowstone Park rangers who bullied and terrified senior citizens

The headline in the Merrimack Valley Eagle-Tribune is unusual: "'Gestapo' Tactics Meet Senior Citizens at Yellowstone."

Surely an exaggeration, right?



Vaillancourt took part in a nine-day tour of western parks and sites along with about four dozen senior citizen tourists. One of the highlights of the tour was to be Yellowstone, where they arrived just as the shutdown went into effect.

Rangers systematically sent visitors out of the park, though some groups that had hotel reservations -- such as Vaillancourt's -- were allowed to stay for two days. Those two days started out on a sour note, she said.

The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn't "recreate." The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren't "recreating," just taking photos.

"She responded and said, 'Sir, you are recreating,' and her tone became very aggressive," Vaillancourt said.

The seniors quickly filed back onboard and the bus went to the Old Faithful Inn, the park's premier lodge located adjacent to the park's most famous site, Old Faithful geyser. That was as close as they could get to the famous site -- barricades were erected around Old Faithful, and the seniors were locked inside the hotel, where armed rangers stayed at the door.

"They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can't go outside," she said. "Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, 'Oh my God, are we under arrest?' They felt like they were criminals."

By Oct. 3 the park, which sees an average of 4,500 visitors a day, was nearly empty. The remaining hotel visitors were required to leave.

As the bus made its 2.5-hour journey out of Yellowstone, the tour guide made arrangements to stop at a full-service bathroom at an in-park dude ranch he had done business with in the past. Though the bus had its own small bathroom, Vaillancourt said seniors were looking for a more comfortable place to stop. But no stop was made -- Vaillancourt said the dude ranch had been warned that its license to operate would be revoked if it allowed the bus to stop. So the bus continued on to Livingston, Mont., a gateway city to the park.

I actually think the Gestapo would have been nicer. Or at least, more professional.

What we are witnessing all over the country is the arbitrary exercise of power. Or, to put it more succinctly - tyranny. When the minions of government feel empowered to bully, threaten, and mistreat those they are supposedly serving - even without the full knowledge of the president - we are experiencing what most concerned the founders about government; arbitrary authority unchecked by constitutional restraints.

We had an intersting discussion about this on my radio show last night with Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller and Hot Air's Jazz Shaw. The question was: how much of this shutdown theater is really the result of legal restraints on what government can do during a shutdown and how much was the arbitrary and capricious exercise of power? Clearly, some of the stories we've been hearing about closings are indeed, a legitimate response by government to not having funds available.

But placing traffic cones along a highway to prevent cars from using scenic turnoffs in order to view Mount Rushmore? Forcibly evicting an elderly couple living in their own privately built house on Lake Mead? Locking seniors in a hotel for two days and then preventing them from making a pre-arranged stop to use a private restroom? Closing an open air memorial?

These are tyrannical acts by government if you define tyranny as arbitrary power exercised outside of the legal framework of the shutdown. It isn't just a political game. It is a serious breach of ethics and a slap in the face to the Constitution.

Congress must investigate this and other outrages we've been hearing about since the shutdown began. And those responsible should be punished.

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