CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Over 100 boats were present in Haverstraw Bay in front of Croton Point Park on Sunday, the site of the "Freedom to Go Boating" protest, according to event organizers. The event was organized to protest years of increased law enforcement security and safety checks after 9/11.
Organizer of the protest, Lex Filipowski, a boater out of Fishkill, said, “What I would like to see is the acknowledgement by politicians and law enforcement that this is a serious problem.”
Filipowski and John Vargo, publisher of Boating on the Hudson magazine, have become repositories for anecdotal police harassment stories, all with the common thread of boaters stopped multiple times in the same day by different agencies for safety and security checks. According to Filipowski, boaters say they are frequently boarded for inspections.
“It’s a wild west shootout,” said Vargo about law enforcement security checks. “There are 23 agencies on the Hudson River,” he also said he believes there is no communication between agencies.
The protest is the backlash of what Filipowski believes is a violation of the constitutional guarantee against unwarranted search and seizure. It is legal, for example, for the United States Coast Guard to stop any boat on “navigable U.S. waters,” according to an earlier interview with Charles Rowe, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. “We have conducted more security checks since 9/11,” he said. “It’s just that simple.”
County agencies however, like the Westchester County Marine Unit, cannot board a boat without probable cause, although common safety violations, like riding on the bow of a boat, can constitute probable cause. Westchester Police could not be reached before publication time, but Lt. Jame Luciano, head of the county police division that includes the Marine Unit, told the Journal News that police wouldn't choose to board a boat and conduct a safety inspection for no reason.
Filipowski insists that he is not against law enforcement on the Hudson River, but that he would like to see “security with the balance of safety, which secures our freedom without being boarded by police unless there’s cause.”
The issue has since received national coverage, being picked up on Saturday by the Journal News, and Monday by the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal. Read The Daily Croton's article on the protest from here, and check out the Facebook for "Freedom to Go Boating."