JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A local school employee said a rough run-in with a couple of Homeland Security officers has left him with a strong sense of insecurity. Leander Pickett says he was handcuffed, roughed up and humiliated by two Homeland Security officers who refused to move their car from the path of waiting school buses.
Leander Pickett, a teacher’s assistant at Englewood Elementary, said he was manhandled and handcuffed by two plain clothed Homeland Security officers in front of the school Tuesday for no reason at all.
“I would like to treat people the way I would want to be treated, and yesterday I wasn’t treated that way,” Pickett said.
Pickett has been working at Englewood for two years, and his principal and colleagues told Channel 4 they have never met a harder worker or nicer guy.
“He’s well loved by everyone because he’s willing to do anything to help children,” said the Englewood Elementary Principal Gail Brinson.
However, Tuesday afternoon Pickett’s niceness turned to anger, disappointment, and betrayal when, as Pickett was directing bus traffic, he said he was handcuffed and roughed up and humiliated by the very people that were supposed to protect him.
“I walked up to him and said, ‘Sir, you need to move.’ That’s when he said ‘I’m a police officer. I’m with Homeland Security … I’ll move it when I want to.’ That’s when he started grabbing me on my arm,” Pickett said.
However, Homeland Security tells a different story.
The department said the only reason the officers were at the school was because they pulled over to look at a map.
The department also said it’s looking into what happened, and that Pickett’s version is wrong. It claims he was antagonizing the officers.
Several people were outside of the school, watching the incident take place, and those witnesses agree with Pickett’s story.
“Mr. Pickett asked the guy blocking the bus loading zone to move, and the guy told him he would move his car when he got ready to move it,” said Englewood coach Alton Jackson.
“At that point I intervened and I went up to the gentleman and said, ‘Mr. Pickett is an employee here,’ and they said that didn’t matter,” said Englewood media specialist, Terri Dreisonstok.
“‘We’re with Homeland Security,’ and on and on they went, and pretty soon, before you know it, he’s handcuffed and slammed against a car,” Brinson said. “All the children are watching, they’re all upset.”
After about 30 minutes, the men released Pickett.
“The part that really upsets me is all these students were watching, and that and it isn’t good,” Jackson said.
Pickett said he plans to sue.
“You now you hear these stories everyday and say, ‘This will never happen to me,’ but yesterday it happened to me,” Pickett said.
“If this is Homeland Security, I think we ought to be a little afraid,” Brinson said.
The central office of Homeland Security contacted Channel 4 about the incident and stated that it considers all allegations seriously and the matter has been referred to a neutral investigative entity.
By David Montgomery
April 28, 2006
Oh say can you see — a la luz de la aurora?
The national anthem that once endured the radical transformation administered by Jimi Hendrix’s fuzzed and frantic Stratocaster now faces an artistic dare at least as extreme: translation into Spanish.
The new take is scheduled to hit the airwaves today. It’s called “Nuestro Himno” — “Our Anthem” — and it was recorded over the past week by Latin pop stars including Ivy Queen, Gloria Trevi, Carlos Ponce, Tito “El Bambino,” Olga Tañon and the group Aventura. Joining and singing in Spanish is Haitian American artist Wyclef Jean.
The different voices contribute lines the way 1985’s “We Are the World” was put together by an ensemble of stars. The national anthem’s familiar melody and structure are preserved, while the rhythms and instrumentation come straight out of Latin pop.
Can “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the republic for which it stands, survive? Outrage over what’s being called “The Illegal Alien Anthem” is already building in the blogosphere and among conservative commentators.
Timed to debut the week Congress returned to debate immigration reform, with the country riven by the issue, “Nuestro Himno” is intended to be an anthem of solidarity for the movement that has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to march peacefully for immigrant rights in Washington and cities across the country, says Adam Kidron, president of Urban Box Office, the New York-based entertainment company that launched the project.
“It’s the one thing everybody has in common, the aspiration to have a relationship with the United States . . . and also to express gratitude and patriotism to the United States for providing the opportunity,” says Kidron.
The song was being prepared for e-mailing as MP3 packages to scores of Latino radio stations and other media last night, and Kidron was calling for stations to play the song simultaneously at 7 Eastern Time this evening.
However, the same advance buzz that drew singers to scramble for inclusion in the recording sessions this week in New York, Miami, Texas, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic has also spurred critics who say rendering the song in Spanish is a rejection of assimilation into the United States.
Even some movement supporters are puzzled by the use of Spanish.
“Even our Spanish media are saying, ‘Why are we doing this, what are you trying to do?’ ” said Pedro Biaggi, the morning host with El Zol (99.1 FM), the most popular Hispanic radio station in the Washington area. “It’s not for us to be going around singing the national anthem in Spanish. . . . We don’t want to impose, we don’t own the place. . . . We want to be accepted.”
Still, Biaggi says he will play “Nuestro Himno” this morning if the song reaches the station in time. But he will talk about the language issue on the air and solicit listeners’ views. He says he accepts the producers’ explanation that the purpose is to spread the values of the anthem to a wider audience. He adds he will also play a version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in English — as he aired the Whitney Houston version earlier this week, when the controversy was beginning to brew.
In the Spanish version, the translation of the first stanza is relatively faithful to the spirit of the original, though Kidron says the producers wanted to avoid references to bombs and rockets. Instead, there is “fierce combat.” The translation of the more obscure second stanza is almost a rewrite, with phrases such as “we are equal, we are brothers.”
An alternate version to be released next month includes a rap in English that never occurred to Francis Scott Key:
Let’s not start a war
With all these hard workers
They can’t help where they were born
“Nuestro Himno” is as fraught with controversial cultural messages as the psychedelic “Banner” Hendrix delivered at the height of the Vietnam War.
Pressed on what he was trying to say with his Woodstock performance in 1969, Hendrix replied (according to biographer Charles Cross), “We’re all Americans. . . . It was like ‘Go America!’ . . . We play it the way the air is in America today.”
Now the national anthem is being remade again according to the way the air is in America, and the people behind “Nuestro Himno” say the message once more is: We’re all Americans. It will be the lead track on an album about the immigrant experience called “Somos Americanos,” due for release May 16. One dollar from each sale will go to immigrant rights groups, including the National Capital Immigration Coalition, which organized the march on the Mall on April 10.
But critics including columnist Michelle Malkin, who coined it “The Illegal Alien Anthem” nickname say the rendition crosses a line that Hendrix never stepped over with his instrumental version. Transforming the musical idiom of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is one thing, argue the skeptics, but translating the words sends the opposite message: We are not Americans.
“I’m really appalled. . . . We are not a bilingual nation,” said George Taplin, director of the Virginia Chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, part of a national countermovement that emphasizes border control and tougher enforcement, and objects to public funding for day-laborer sites. “When people are talking about becoming a part of this country, they should assimilate to the norm that’s already here,” Taplin said. “What we’re talking about here is a sovereign nation with our ideals and our national identity, and that [anthem] is one of the icons of our nation’s identity. I believe it should be in English as it was penned.”
Yet, even in English, 61 percent of adults don’t know all the words, a recent Harris poll found.
Appealing to such symbols of national identity to plug into their profound potency is how new movements compete for space within that identity. During the rally on the Mall, the immigrants and their supporters also waved thousands of American flags and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. But they didn’t translate the pledge into Spanish. They said it in English.
Juan Carlos Ruiz, the general coordinator of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, said there’s not a contradiction. The pledge was printed phonetically for Spanish speakers, and many reciting the sounds may not have understood the meaning. Putting the anthem in Spanish is a way to relay the meaning to people who haven’t learned English yet, Ruiz said.
“It’s part of the process to learn English,” not a rejection of English, he said.
‘A communal shout’
While critics sketch a nightmare scenario of a Canada-like land with an anthem sung in two languages, immigrant rights advocates say they agree learning English is essential. Studies of immigrant families suggest the process is inevitable: Eighty-two percent to 90 percent of the children of immigrants prefer English.
“The first step to understanding something is to understand it in the language you understand, and then you can understand it in another language,” said Leo Chavez, director of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California at Irvine. “What this song represents at this moment is a communal shout, that the dream of America, which is represented by the song, is their dream, too.”
Since its origins as the melody to an English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” circa 1780, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has had a long, strange trip. Key wrote the poem after watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. It became the national anthem in 1931.
At least 389 versions have been recorded, according to Allmusic.com, a quick reference used by musicologists to get a sense of what’s on the market. Now that Hendrix’s “Banner” has mellowed into classic rock, it’s hard to imagine that once some considered it disrespectful. The other recordings embrace a vast musical universe: from Duke Ellington to Dolly Parton to Tiny Tim. But musicologists cannot name another foreign-language version.
“America is a pluralistic society, but the anthem is a way that we can express our unity. If that’s done in a different language, that doesn’t seem to me personally to be a bad thing,” said Michael Blakeslee, deputy executive director of the National Association for Music Education, which is leading a National Anthem Project to highlight the song and the school bands that play it in every style, from mariachi to steel drum.
‘A noble intent’
“I assume the intent is one of making a statement about ‘we are a part of this nation,’ and those are wonderful sentiments and a noble intent,” said Dan Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
Benigno “Benny” Layton wonders. He’s the leader of Los Hermanos Layton, a band of conjunto- and Tejano-style musicians in Elsa, Tex., 22 miles from Mexico. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he recorded a traditional conjunto version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was instrumental.
“I’m a second-generation American,” Layton said. “I love my country, and I love my [Mexican musical] heritage, and I try to keep it alive. But some things are sacred that you don’t do. And translating the national anthem is one of them.”
House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Ill., center, gets out of a Hydrogen Alternative Fueled automobile, left, as he prepares to board his SUV, which uses gasoline, after holding a news conference at a local gas station in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2006 to discuss the recent rise in gas prices. Hastert and other members of Congress drove off in the Hydrogen-Fueled cars only to switch to their official cars to drive the few blocks back to the U.S. Capitol.