Kentwood Mayor Proud of City Workers Who Harassed Photographer

Now, most logically thinking people would gather that the City of Kentwood, MI, is the last place on Google Maps that terrorists would target. But if you make the mistake of photographing Kentwood’s “octopus” water tower (which of course, is featured on Kentwood’s website, Google street view, and within eyeshot of Kentwood’s police and fire stations), then you will likely be harassed, threatened and followed until you are forced into providing your name to a group of people who have no authority to order anybody to do anything.

It all started when 40-year-old computer programmer and photo hobbyist, Ed Heil, was minding his own business and decided to photograph the water tower located on Walma Avenue SE, but instead, attracted the attention of Kentwood’s finest—its city utility workers—who wanted to know Heil’s name and why he was taking pictures of the tower.

As reported by MLive.com:

Heil said he just wanted to be left alone Thursday afternoon. If police asked, he would talk; but he didn’t think he had to answer to city workers.

Heil’s position was correct, but the interrogation didn’t cease. And even though the water tower is within view of the police station, the utility workers chose not to involve the police, but decided to take matters into their own hands and go beyond their non-existent authority and continue to harass Heil, following him to the library — where they prevented Heil from working and ultimately bullied him into providing them with his name. Real heroes, right? A mayor would be so proud.

“I was physically shaking with anger and fear, and let them know in no uncertain terms that I did not believe this was a legitimate exercise of authority, and I wanted them to cease harassing me and let me work,” Heil said. “I told them they had no right to demand any personal information from me, but they were so intimidating and threatening, I did give them my name and they finally went away.”

In most situations, when something raises a concern, i. e., real suspicious people or real potential terrorist attacks, most logically thinking people would contact law enforcement to handle the situation. But that is not what happened in Kentwood and the city’s vigilantes believed that they had the legal authority to handle the situation the way they wanted to handle it.

So Mayor Richard Root and John Gorney, Kentwood’s operations and utilities manager (who was summoned to the scene), are justifying the utility workers’ harassment of Heil by using—you guessed it—terrorism as the rationale. Which, nowadays, is standard operating procedure involving these kinds of incidences. Since we all know in these hyped-up times of synthetic threats and manufactured fear, “terrorism” and “homeland security” are used to condone all kinds of illegal and questionable behavior that is carried out by our federal, state and the smallest of local governments.

As Mlive.com wrote:

But Mayor Richard Root said no one takes chances any more.

More important, Root, in an attempt to support his position and create some sort of false threat of terrorism in the City of Kentwood (I’m curious to know when Root is up for re-election), equates Kentwood’s water tower to Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge (ironically, and contrary to Root’s presumptions, the bridge’s own website has a photo gallery). So we’re supposed to believe  that the third longest suspension bridge in the United States and it’s likelihood of being attacked by terrorists is equivalent to a water tower in a small city located in the southeastern part of Michigan with a population of 45,000?

Root said:

“I’m sure you’d find the Coast Guard very excited if somebody (was photographing) the Mackinac Bridge.”

No disrespect Mayor Root, but stop the terrorism histrionics—the City of Kentwood is not in any real danger of a terrorist attack, so please act like a Mayor and apologize to Mr. Heil for the behavior of your city’s utility workers. Don’t you see the danger in criminalizing perfectly legal activities? (Not likely.)

He said he was proud of city workers for their diligence, adding that they responded appropriately.

And just so you know Mayor Root, but I already think you do, as one of Michigan’s major tourist attractions, the Mackinac Bridge is photographed by people every day (try a simple Google search) and the Coast Guard does not harass these people for performing an activity that is protected by the First Amendment.

As far as John Gorney is concerned:

…he made no apologies.

And, as MLive.com reported:

…the incident would be referred to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

I wonder if the The Department of Homeland Security (Theater) is tired of receiving ridiculous reports like this, or if they have paranoid morons working for them too.

Let’s hope not.

Mayor Richard Root
Kentwood City Center
4900 Breton Ave. SE
P.O. Box 8848
Kentwood, MI 49518
Phone: (616) 554-0771
Email: Mayor@ci.kentwood.mi.us

Article from MLive.com

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11 Responses to “Kentwood Mayor Proud of City Workers Who Harassed Photographer”


  1. 1 Josh Zytkiewicz September 25, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I love this phrase: “The Department of Homeland Security (Theater)”. I think someone should make t-shirts.

  2. 2 Jonathan Trak September 26, 2010 at 8:33 am

    The mayor is a complete jerk and should be removed from office ASAP. He and the city workers are the real threat to our country. I’m hoping the Ed Heil is going to press charges against the workers and that this issue is pushed into the public’s eye so it has to be addressed.

    The Mayor and his workers are sick, twisted people who should never be allowed to serve in public office. I think that the city workers should be fired and the Mayor discharged. End of Story.

  3. 3 JDNew September 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I support these men and their brave patriotism.

    I doubt there’s many citizens that would have the guts to walk up to a suspected terrorist and ask for proof of identification.

    We had someone break into our water treatment plants here in West MI not long ago – As far as I know we still do not know what the purpose of that break in was.

    So for me – I am in full support of these men and I wouldn’t mind if it were myself taking pictures and they’d ask me for ID.

    • 4 discarted September 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm

      Not worth the energy.

  4. 5 DT September 29, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Yep…it takes a great deal of courage to harass a computer and photography nerd photographing a water tower in Small Town, USA. Those brave souls should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their swift action. Seriously. I’m going to write my Congressman about it right now. I’m sure he’ll get right on it.

    • 6 JDNew September 29, 2010 at 5:37 am

      Lets not go overboard – I have no idea how threatening this man appears. When it comes to terrorists. They come in all shapes and sizes. It is a realistic threat !

      What I do know is how most citizens are only living in their small world and ignoring what goes on in plain sight.

      Too many people out there that all they know is to call the Police dept anytime they suspect maybe something needs attention. In today’s economy Police depts and emergency responders are getting less and less than what we really need.

      We all can step it up and do our own part to get the job done !

      If you disagree – then we’ll have to agree to disagree !

      Thin about this in the above report they compare this to taking pictures of a bridge. If that bridge was blown up – that would effect the people on the bridge and inconvenience others.

      If our water supply was tainted with something – that would take out the entire city and maybe more.

      • 7 J Tammaro September 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

        JDNew

        There has been no evidence of any major terrorist attack using open video or camera surveilance before an attack.

        A camera can’t be used to pick a lock so I am not sure how a break in at a water facility (which would require you to be on their property) has any relevance to taking photos from a public area.

        It does not help at all to have every person in this country so paranoid that they report every “suspicious” action to the police because it would overwhelm most local law enforcement and I am pretty sure terrorists will not be so brazen as to stand on a public way in full view of everyone and plan their attack.

        When the FEMA director actually has some real anti-terrorism experience I might listen to what they have to say

  5. 8 JDNew September 29, 2010 at 5:51 am

    FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate speaks to the importance of being prepared and having a plan to keep your family safe as part of National Preparedness Month during September.

    http://www.fema.gov/medialibrary/media_records/3040/

  6. 9 Joel September 29, 2010 at 6:17 am

    My opinion:

    1) The city employee’s asking for ID: Their right to inquire is not the same as their right to seek proper ID. Their inquire should have stopped when the photographer told them “NO” or whatever he said.
    2) It became harassment when they continued to question and followed him to the library.
    3) Police would be quite busy indeed with this stuff if they followed up on every whistle blown.
    4) Concerned citizens should not be afraid to make an inquiry before they blow a whistle. But, we need to carefully proceed with logic before we cry wolf too many times.
    5) Given the circumstances about the water break in recently – the city employees had a right to be concerned. They should have contacted the police after questing the man.
    6) Never cry wolf: All the city employees and the mayor have done is react in a way that next time, when it may be a real threat, everyone will shrug it off.


  1. 1 Jim’s Brain Online » Kentwood Water Tower Followup Trackback on September 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm
  2. 2 Kentwood, Michigan Photowalk Developing (get it?) « Trackback on September 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm

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