Finnish folk band find a rude airport welcome

200710291147


Ryan Johnson says: The members of Lännen-Jukka, an Finnish folk band playing finnish-american folk tunes and headed by Finnish pop legend J. Karjalainen were detained in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for suspicion of either sneaking drugs in or attempting to seek work illegally. Bored security agents strip searched one of the members, and refused to actually listen to the band members' own account of why they were there.

From Twin Cities Daily Planet:

Perhaps the most damning comment on the incident was delivered by [J. Karjalainen] who was strip-searched. On a couple of occasions prior to 1991, he was detained by the KGB and interrogated. Compared to the ICE agents here in the Twin Cities, the KGB operatives, he says, "at least acted like human beings. Not a bunch of animals."
What's more, their passports now show permanent evidence of "DENIED ENTRY" that was hastily crossed out in pen. Sounds like it will be tough for these folks to travel in the future -- how many times will they have to explain the situation?
"It was almost three hours of screaming, door-slamming and accusations, according to the report I received," said Marianne Wargelin, honorary Finnish consul for the Dakotas and most of Minnesota, which has the second largest Finnish-American population in the nation.

Erkki Maattanen, a filmmaker for Finnish Public Television who accompanied the musicians on the September trip, said his questioners seemed to think the entourage was smuggling drugs or intending to work without a permit. "I kept trying to tell them why we were here, but they'd just yell, 'Shut up!"' he said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the airport declined to comment, referring questions to regional press officer Brett Sturgeon.

Sturgeon said such behavior, if it occurred, would run contrary to the agency's policy that travelers must be treated in a professional manner. The complaint has not yet arrived at the Chicago regional office, but when it does, it will be fully investigated, he said.

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  1. These people are making mountain out of a molehill and were just asking for trouble.

    I mean, look at them! Would you let someone dressed as a Weber grill into the country?

  2. … it’s worrying that this no longer surprises or shocks me. Is that what the govt is going for, just keeping on doing it till people throw up their hands and just accept it as part of life?

    [worried]

  3. Remember — this is the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport … maybe their music is … toe-tapping?

  4. Since the press officer has stated that what happened to them is against policy, I’m pretty sure the bottom line is that it didn’t happen.

  5. Yeah, I heard about 9-11. It was in all the papers.

    But what idiot thought that giving security jobs to ten thousand power-tripping clowns would INCREASE Americans’ security?

    Every such incident brings us closer to the day America gets booed off the world stage.

  6. J. Karjalainen, menace to society…

    Waiting to put his diary up on the site:-) Maybe I’ll even translate it…

  7. Frickin’ Finlanders. Every mother-loving Swedish Minnesotan knows you can never trust the Finns. Sheesh — you people don’t know nothing.

    (I’m trying to joke here son — this comment is an attempt at levity).

    <ashamed>a resident of MPL-STP</ashamed>

  8. can we add up the newsworthy or worse things that have happened at the MSP airport in recent history?? that place is a hot bed of controversy.

    1. obvs, larry craig
    2. that guy who got cop brutalized trying to ride his fold-up bike away from the airport
    3. they detained all those imams a few months ago
    4. NWA strikes, as always (remember the time employees gathered out on the tarmac in the middle of the day?)
    5. and now hippie profiling

    can anyone think of others, i feel i’m missing some…

  9. Actually, Swell, with #2, the guy attempted to ride away on an expressway where bicycles were prohibited. They had to tackle him to stop him because he started to ride out even after the police told him he can’t. He’s probably lucky he didn’t get himself or someone else killed in a traffic accident.

    (The story at the time didn’t contain this information, because it was one-sided. It’s often necessary to do the legwork to find out the entire story before jumping to conclusions.)

  10. “What’s more, their passports now show permanent evidence of “DENIED ENTRY” that was hastily crossed out in pen.”

    I’m guessing it’s not too difficult to get a new passport in Finland. It isn’t here in the U.S. You just ‘lose’ your old one.

  11. It happened to us too, this summer, something similar. We arrived from italy and one of the guys was questioned for nearly half an hour. The most fascist moment of our vacation, thank god people were a lot friendlier in WA, OR and California!

  12. Swell: the other fairly recent news item out of MSP was Muslim cab drivers refusing to accept fares carrying alcohol. It’s something of a moot issue these days, what with alcohol being a liquid and all.

  13. @ poster #5: I don’t think they’d let in anyone with hair and shoes that pointy.

    But yes, the infamous friendliness of our customs agents strikes again. Even if you happily cooperate, they still treat you like a criminal.

  14. What would happen if all of us “smart” people used some of our free time collecting data, organizing/educating people, voicing dissatisfaction with elected offcials/laws? Hmmm?

    I have to agree with an earlier poster, who mentioned he/she was no longer suprised. Imagine that, and we’re people who give a S#!^. I don’t think it’s absurd to envision this as noose that will over time tighten while simultaneoulsy encompassing more and more of our “rights”. Who ever heard of a nice tough guy? Muscle (government/law) does what muscle wants, including bending you over.

  15. Always remember folks, bring some EX-LAX in case you get stripped searched, because if they do a “cavity search” then you can show them how you really feel.

  16. Remember — this is the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport … maybe their music is … toe-tapping?

    That took me a second to get, and then I totally laughed out loud.

  17. Hey this is serious stuff folks. Seems parts of the world are becoming more difficult for travellers these days. I recently heard two stories from respectable people who were refused entry to the UK and US and who were treated like criminals by the authorities. Now imagine the outcry if this started happening to US and UK citizens.

  18. British Ministers (and guest of DHS to boot!) and now folk musicians being treated like criminals upon entering the US. Perhaps that’s why many Europeans are staying away with their tourist and business dollars (and €uros and kronors and things):

    “In a survey conducted by the travel industry lobby group the Discover America Partnership late last year, the United States’ scored more than twice as badly as the next region, the Middle East, in terms of travel friendliness.

    … There’s other places you can go where you don’t get treated badly at immigration and ports of entry,’ British visitor Mitchel Lenson told Reuters as he stood on a wind-swept promontory overlooking the Grand Canyon.

    ‘The assumption (in the United States) is ‘you must be a criminal, so we’ll treat you that way,” he added. ”

    Monsters and Critics story about US tourism survey

  19. Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that Jukka and the gang absolutely loved the rest of their trip. Most people they met were the polar opposite of mindless, security theater addled, petit bureaucrat, wannabe despots.

    It’s just a shame that particular kind seems to congregate in airports these days.

  20. as a refugee from bushistan this whole incident strikes me as incredibly unfortunate and embarrasing. as a resident of finland familiar with these folks (we had beers together in jyväskylä last spring) this whole thing is pretty ironic (in a fucked-up post 9-11 way. the music they play is based on finnish-AMERICAN (in other words immigrant) music and celebrates the universal american dream as well as the fact that some aspects of said music have been back and forth over the Atlantic a few times before its present incarnation.

    incidentally, i went home for a short visit to MN a few weeks back and my finnish wife and i spent 2 hours in various lines and searches because the computer said that a springer spaniel may have smelled traces of marijuana residue on my clothing 9 years ago when i came back from a brief stay in mexico. we were headed for the next level of interrogation when some kind senior officer helped us past the brownshirts and to the pickup area where my brother was waiting.

    hopefully the lännen-jukka trio still feels like playing next summer at finnfest in duluth. a lot of people who aren’t homeland security drones deserve to hear their kickass music.

  21. #17 posted by NoneSuch

    Actually, Swell, with #2, the guy attempted to ride away on an expressway where bicycles were prohibited. They had to tackle him [. . .]

    (The story at the time didn’t contain this information, because it was one-sided. It’s often necessary to do the legwork to find out the entire story before jumping to conclusions.)

    Care to give us the benefit of your legwork? Because everything I can find online about the guy, whose name is Stephan Orsak, says that:

    1. Cycling was not prohibited on the road (though “no cycling” signs were posted later).

    2. He lived in the Minneapolis area and had cycled on that road on several previous occasions.

    3. The road in question is the airport access road, not an expressway.

    4. The cop not only brutalized him, he used a Taser on him.

    If you know better, show us your sources. Frankly, the Minneapolis police don’t seem to have a good track record.

    http://web.mac.com/stephanorsak

  22. First it is a crime to lie to customs officers that’s why they where treated like criminals their description of there treatment is greatly exaggerated and there passport now have a stamp saying refused entry that is probably scrached out in pen. Foreign citizen do not have a right to enter the U.S. they must comply with simple easy to follow rules. Persons who choose to misrepresent there true intentions will be questioned to attempt to find truth. The bands statements’ made that day at the Airport and there account of what happened is not the truth and is probably a shameless attempt at publicity. The incident is well documented and witnessed by many the complaint has no merit and the truth will come out but I doubt it will no get the press the lairs got for there fictions account and lack of respect for the law.

  23. #30,
    Here you go:
    http://duoquartuncia.blogspot.com/2007/06/cycling-sensibly.html

    Ultimately it will be for the courts to decide, but it sounds like Orsak will have an uphill battle.

    Mostly you don’t hear about these types of counter-arguments because 99% of bloggers simply repost the original look-what-the-evil-government-did-this-time story and it’s very hard to find anything other than the same story reposted 5,000 times. The counter argument will end up being on one blog on page 32 of your Google search, because apparently reality is less entertaining than fiction.

  24. Your screed would be far more believable, Boodle33, if you were able to spell, punctuate and use English grammar possibly.

    Oh, and if you gave some evidence to back up your claim.

  25. Ah the goons from Homeland Security are doing a fine job of carrying out Der Fuhrer’s wishes…

    Sieg Heil!

  26. this whole thing is being taken too far…of course, it’s sad that thse fine artists were the subject of such intense scrutiny, but let’s consider the point of the TSA guys…these people are overworked, underpaid, and probably not too well trained to handle different situations and cultures. Let us not blame the so-called ‘brownshirts’…blame the system that did not equip them to deal with tricky circumstances. Personally, the only time I got held up at an airport was when my carry-on was full of books that could not pass through the X-ray machine…they had to open the bag up, and swab it to check for explosives or whatever…to their credit, the undeniably bored TSA people were never rude or aggresive to me.

  27. nonesuch: Here you go

    Where I go? Some blogger from Australia? Whose analysis is based on the incorrect assumption that Orsak was riding on the part of the airport restricted to aircraft?

    Nice legwork. You’re a regular Cyd Charisse.

    Look, I agree that the cyclist’s web site tells his side of the story, and we don’t know that the police officer was in the wrong without all the facts. We similarly can’t assume that the cyclist was wrong. And those Minneapolis cops have quite a track record.

  28. I was yelled at by a US Border Patrol officer. I should put that on a t-shirt. :P

    The level of rudeness I got from her was pretty exceptional, and included debasing Canadian currency. (I’m not Canadian, but I’m fairly sure that if I was, then at the point when she threw the $20 note back at me, yelling “That’s play money!”, I would have been offended, to put it mildly.)

    At the time there were signs everywhere stating that their staff are required to be polite and respectful at all times. Whether or not it really is their policy (Who would know? Aren’t US Border Patrol operating procedures a national secret?), they definitely do not enforce it.

    I have to say that the incident left me deeply disinclined to return to the US any time soon. It would actually make sense in some ways for me to apply to do my PhD there, but I simply refuse to be subjected to the treatment foreigners get in your country.

  29. Willie , hi, you wrote:

    wife and i spent 2 hours in various lines and searches because the computer said that a springer spaniel may have smelled traces of marijuana residue on my clothing 9 years ago when i came back from a brief stay in mexico.

    Can you clarify?
    Does this mean to say the dog had smelled the weed on your clothes at the Mexico-US border 9 years ago and they had logged it but not told you anything about it or stopped you at the time?

    oh boy, i am SO not flying to anywhere that includes landing to the US on the way!

  30. Quoting John Perry Barlow on 9-11…

    “Control freaks will dine on this day forever”.

    What makes me sick is the whole lot that believes this actually makes anyone safer. Sure.

  31. Boodle33:
    In my experience working with beginning writing students for many years, I’ve discovered a few things you might want to consider.

    One, spelling, grammar, and punctuation count.

    Two, errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation are almost always accompanied by errors in logic, structure, and coherence.

    Three, any student who can’t spell, punctuate, or correct the grammar of what he or she writes does not get to sit at the big table with the adults.

    No, a student like that needs to stick to writing descriptions of oranges or summer vacation or the far upper left brick on the first building on Main Street.

    A student who fails so miserably at basic writing tasks does not get to express his or her “political judgment” until he or she learns the basics. “Opinion” just gets in the way of much more fundamental things.

  32. Reasonable123,
    Don’t request more information if you’re going to go all ad hominem on it without reading the information it presents. Did you find some error with the maps?

    (Of course I know the answer is ‘no’, because the opinion didn’t agree with yours, therefore you didn’t look at it.)

  33. “at the point when she threw the $20 note back at me, yelling “That’s play money!”
    That is the exact wrong point unfortunately, to point out that; ‘well, it’s worth more than yours‘, entertaining though that may be.

  34. Sometimes I think this kind of thing is all part of some neo-conservative plot to “keep them damn for’ners out!”

  35. Nonesuch,

    Hey look, we’re the last ones left. Everybody else is checking out the cadaver farm.

    I did look at the map, and read the commentary, including Stephan Orsak’s comments. The bottom line is that he was cycling on a road with a 30 mph speed limit, from which bikes aren’t prohibited. And they tasered his ass.

    That’s what makes Orsak’s story relevant to that of Lännen-Jukka. They’re parts of the same pattern.

    Tactically, it was a mistake to challenge the officer, regardless of who was in the right. (“You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride”.) But there just isn’t any way to read any description of the incident in which it was reasonable for the officer to draw his weapon on a middle-aged music teacher with a folding bicycle.

  36. Unanimous Cowherd
    I am aware of my short comings in written language. I apologize for my errors, English is not my first language. I fail to see why my poor grammar skills would make my comments any less credible. If is the grammar in my comments that bothers you so much then don’t read it.

  37. Boodle33- have you gone through US Customs much? I last went through O’Hare in 2003 and was treated with unbridled hostility- shouting, shoving, having my passport literally snatched from my hand by the official at the desk. I was a 16-year-old Irish tourist queuing politely. I won’t be going back any time soon.

    Any evidence that your account of the band’s experiences is more accurate than the consensus?

  38. Nonesuch (43):

    Reasonable123,
    Don’t request more information if you’re going to go all ad hominem on it without reading the information it presents. Did you find some error with the maps?

    (Of course I know the answer is ‘no’, because the opinion didn’t agree with yours, therefore you didn’t look at it.)

    Nothing Reasonable123 has said qualifies as an ad hominem argument. However, this last message of yours unquestionably does.

  39. Muppet,

    You asked:Does this mean to say the dog had smelled the weed on your clothes at the Mexico-US border 9 years ago and they had logged it but not told you anything about it or stopped you at the time?

    The dog smelled weed on me, according to the handler. I was escorted to the baggage area, then we took my backpack to an examination room. They went through all my stuff and had me strip, no cavity search though. Nothing was found, they sent me on my way. Actually I got out of the airport before anyone else on my plane did. Unfortunately every time I return home for a visit this incident is an issue.

  40. “I’m guessing it’s not too difficult to get a new passport in Finland. It isn’t here in the U.S. You just ‘lose’ your old one.”

    Yeah but first you have to manage back to Finland. That may not be as easy with the “denied” stamp on the passport. You have to make the officials believe you did not smudge it with pen yourself but it was the officials. They are never going to believe it when you try to leave the country.

  41. Thanks, Mark for posting this info. I want to correct one factual detail, however. It was Erkki Maattanen who told me that he was stripped searched, not Jukka. Jukka was just screamed at and threatened with prison…For some reason when the Minneapolis-Star Tribune finally got hold of the story two weeks after my initial blog, Erkki changed his story — though I have good reason to believe that the version he told me was correct, first, because he’d told it to other people, and second, because he related it to me during a group interview that included other members of the Finnish party. The reporter for the Strib claimed that the detail about the search in my blog was “absolutely untrue” as part of a general rationalization for why she did not acknowledge that the information about the incident had appeared two weeks earlier at the Daily Planet. How did she know? Because when she contacted the ICE, they said they “usually don’t do that at airports.” In other words, a classic non-denial denial that a mainstream reporter took as gospel because, well, I guess because it came from a Department of Homeland Security official, and we certainly know that no one from DHS would ever lie to the public!

  42. Thanks, Takuan. I saw that piece at deepjournal earlier on another site. It confirmed for me the truth of what the Finns told me about the treatment they received at the hands of the DHS. I could tell you other horror stories about the ICE (not the TSA, as a previous commentor thought — those are just the folks who screen passengers and baggage. They are not the customs and immigration people), truly one of the most out-of-control agency in the whole Bush apparatus.

  43. I am curious; what legal mechanism is employed to strip Americans of their American citizenship?
    This will be the next logical step in the expansion of control. Once target subjects are re-classified as non-citizens, all their constitutional protections will no longer apply and they will treated as those in the above examples.

  44. In answer to Takuan, Bush has already arrogated the power to strip citizens of the United States of citizenship, even if apprehended within our borders. All he has to do is designate someone “an enemy combatant” — a term for which there is no Constitutional nor statutory precedent. Meanwhile, Congress is currently considering legislation that could effectively strip us of our civil liberties and personal freedom simply for thinking or saying things broadly interpreted as hostile to the U.S.

    In other words, the very conditions you mention in your comment are already in place, and on the verge of being made even stronger and more pernicious.

  45. Yes, Patriot II passed, but there is no legislation pending that would set up a commission that would travel around the country to hold hearings and to investigate individuals accused or suspected of espousing “violent radicalism.” In other words, a law that would revive a kind of updated form of the House Un-American Activities Committee that was a direct forerunner of the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s.

  46. I see. This explains the silence of so many Americans over the past few years. If Obama wins the election, will Patriot II be repealed?

  47. I haven’t been following his particular stand on these issues — I would certainly hope that he and any other progressive candidate would seek serious reform of Patriot I and II, and scuttle the abovementioned commission. But if there is one thing we have learned over time, it is a lot easier to implement authoritarian measures than it is to repeal or reform them — look at the havoc the so-called War on Drugs has wrought on civil liberties and America’s incarceration rate.

  48. Takuan, the bill in question was passed by the House in October with both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. It’s called the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.”

  49. So now, any American citizen seen by the prevailing government to be a “threat” can be seized, imprisoned, tortured and ultimately executed – as a “non-citizen”.

    Nice country ya got there.

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