Historians Make News!

Riveting Highlights from the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association.

On Thursday, just after noon, the Tufts historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto was arrested by Atlanta police as he crossed the middle of the street between the Hilton and Hyatt hotels. After being thrown on the ground and handcuffed, the former Oxford don was formally arrested, his hands cuffed behind his back. Several policemen pressed hard on his neck and chest, leaving the mild-mannered scholar, who’s never gotten so much as a parking ticket, bruised and in pain. He was then taken to the city detention center along with other accused felons and thrown into a filthy jail cell filled with prisoners. He remained incarcerated for eight hours. Officials demanded bail of over a thousand dollars. To come up up with the money Fernandez-Armesto, the author of nineteen books, had to make an arrangement with a bail bondsman. In court even the prosecutors seemed embarrassed by the incident, which got out of hand when Fernandez-Armesto requested to see the policeman’s identification (the policeman was wearing a bomber jacket; to Fernandez-Armesto, a foreigner unfamiliar with American culture, the officer did not look like an officer). The prosecutors asked the professor to plead nolo contendere. He refused, concerned that the stain on his record might put his green card status in jeopardy. Officials finally agreed to drop all charges. The judge expressed his approval. The professor says he has no plans to sue. But the AHA council is considering lodging a complaint with the city.

The interview with Prof. Fernandez-Armesto is at once hysterically funny and a cringe-making embarrassment to Atlanta,

Click here for Part 2. Click here for Part 3.

Oh yes–the AHA made some history at this meeting too:

At the annual Business Meeting, a proceeding usually featuring dry reports by the organization’s leaders, the members approved an anti-war resolution, the first in the AHA’s existence. The voice vote at the packed meeting was nearly unanimous. It was sponsored by Historians Against the War.

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2 Responses to Historians Make News!

  1. Joe says:

    I couldn’t watch the whole interview. If the Atlanta police are anything like the police in Washington, DC, then they are minimally competent and barely able to speak. I was confronted about a month ago by a WMATA subway employee when I tried to take a picture out of the window of the train. After telling the employee that I was totally within my rights to take a picture from a moving train, I complained to his supervisors about being warned about exercising my first amendment rights. I also spoke to Metro’s legal department as well as the internal affairs section of the WMATA (subway) police. Somebody other than the Department of Homeland Insecurity needs to tell our public employees that the first amendment to the constitution is still the law in this country.

    On the other hand, yesterday (Monday), a woman crossing 14th street at G Street in downtown washington was hit by a southbound fuel tanker truck. I think that she was in the crosswalk when the truck hit her. The impact tore off one of her legs, and that section of the street was closed from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. while the DC Metropolitan Police department conducted an investigation. they transported her to the hospital right away, but the remainder of her leg was in the street until 1:00 p.m. or later. I heard this morning that she is alive, and that the police arrested the truck driver, but I don’t know any more than that. The location of that accident is two blocks from the White House. At one point, between 10:30 and 11:00, I counted at least two ambulances on the scene, four police cars, and one truck from the DC Department of Transportation. I didn’t take any pictures of the accident scene, but I can tell you that the remainder of her leg looked like two pounds of recently ground hamburger.

    I do feel sorry for the professor. I sincerely hope that the Atlanta police develop some sensitivity. I note, however, that at least he is able to discuss the event from a chair that does not have wheels on it.



    This, I hope, gets world wide atttention. The rest of the world needs to know that America will not put up with any snotty behavior from foreigners!
    I hope this has a big impact on the Atlanta convention business. If I had anything to do with siting a convention, Atlanta would be struck from my list.
    Please encourage your readership to pass this link around to those who might have an impact on convention venues or even police behavior. Lots of Luck!

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