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I read something this week that really hit a nerve in me, and caused me to think that we just can’t take anything for granted anymore. Living and working in Ava, I never give thought to the idea that the police might ever stop me from doing my job.
I’m sure Kristyna Wentz-Graff didn’t either.
Wentz-Graff is a 41-year-old reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She is a three-time winner of the state’s Photographer of the Year Award and said up until the November morning she went out to photograph an Occupy movement, she had never even had a traffic ticket.
Despite her camera in hand and press credentials hanging from a lanyard around her neck, she was taken into custody with her hands handcuffed behind her back, put in the back seat of a squad car, patted down by a police matron, fingerprinted and put in a holding pen with other detainees.
The policeman who made the arrest said that, despite her repeatedly telling him she was a journalist, he believed she was one of the “camera-toting protesters.”
The Milwaukee police chief supported the police sergeant who made the arrest although police video at the scene clearly showed her press credentials around her neck. So did a still picture taken by a University of Wisconsin student.
Milwaukee’s mayor said, when questioned about the ordeal, that from videos taken of the woman’s arrest, “It was clear to me she was a photojournalist.”
Maybe that’s why she was never formally charged. Before her release she was given a summons to report to the city attorney’s office in six weeks to resolve the complaint against her. Before that time arrived whatever charges there might have been were withdrawn.
Working in Ava, Missouri, I don’t ever expect to have anything like this happen to me. But even for someone who has been in the business for decades, working among friends, it’s a good reminder that we never take anything for granted.
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Last Thursday morning I was in Springfield to visit with Dan Vaughan on his “Meet the Editor” radio program on KWTO-AM. Last time I did the program, about a year ago, we got into a discussion on how Douglas County came to be known as Booger County.
As I attempted to come up with a clear cut answer to the question, I came to the conclusion that there probably is not one. There are lots of opinions, but nothing set in concrete, that I can find.
In his book, Searching for Booger County, Sandy Ray Chapin gives some good background information, and the book contains as good a history of the county as I’ve ever read. And, as I said on the radio, I suspect most of it is true. But there is no clear-cut answer as to how the county got that nickname.
One caller to the program last Thursday said she knew, and she was surprised that I didn’t know, when I said I had worked for the paper for more than 40 years. She said Douglas County’s low minority population gives clear evidence of why we are Booger County. We are racist. Minorities are not allowed here.
I never knew that before.