A Yellowstone tour guide accused the National Park Service of using “Gestapo tactics” while shutting down the park, after armed rangers locked a group of terrified senior citizens inside their hotel for many hours to prevent them from visiting nearby attractions.
The Lawrence, Massachusetts Eagle-Tribune reports that the rangers also prevented the group from taking pictures of wildlife and from stopping at a rest facility during their departure, forcing seniors to wait well over two hours before using the restroom.
“We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control,” said Pat Vaillancourt, a Massachusetts resident who was on the tour last week. “It was like they brought out the armed forces.”
When the government shutdown took effect on October 1, Vaillancourt’s group of about four dozen senior citizens had just arrived at Yellowstone. Although many tourists were already being shuttled out of the park, rangers allowed the tour a two-day extension due to their prepaid hotel reservations. What looked like a generous exception, however, soon turned into a nightmare.
As the bus made its way into the park, the group stopped to take pictures of a large bison herd passing nearby. Vaillancourt said that a ranger quickly appeared, ordering the tourists to stop “recreating” and return to the bus.
When the group’s tour guide protested, the ranger became angry. “She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.
“We paid a lot to get in,” said tour guide Gordon Hodgson, who was interviewed by the local Livingston Enterprise. “All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
The seniors were sent to the Old Faithful Inn, a ritzy hotel located next to the famous Old Faithful geyser. Immediately upon their arrival, armed rangers locked the inn’s doors and stood guard outside to prevent the group from visiting the geyser, which was already barricaded.
“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed,” Vaillancourt said. “They told us you can’t go outside. Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt they were criminals.”
“All we could do was eat dinner in the dining room,” said Hodgson. “It was like a ghost town.”