Portland JetPort Baggage Claim Protest Made Dangerous Situation More Dangerous in Public Space Known to Have Existing Security Flaws

The Portland JetPort Baggage Claim Protest on January 29, 2017

I am still reeling from the impact this potentially dangerous situation had on both my husband and I upon our return to the closest airport to our home. I haven’t been right since. Let me begin with the fact that this Portland JetPort baggage claim protest isn’t about me and the impact this situation had on us. This is about the police officer’s safety, our safety, and even the safety of the protestors. Normally I wouldn’t post about a situation until it was dealt with face to face. But since the Portland JetPort had a complete disregard for our public safety, this is more about public education than anything. I don’t want anything from the airport aside from a promise that this will never happen again. Unfortunately, because of the way our system works, we have to make the complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission about identity. Although, we did make it abundantly clear that their lack of threat assessment had a significant impact on unsuspecting passengers and those with Post Traumatic Stress, a disorder characterized by a loss of one’s sense of safety. This large angry, noisy crowd had the potential to negatively impact veterans with PTSD, sexual assault victims, domestic violence victims, abused children, and a number of other people with invisible wounds. A person without a disability would have a hard time dealing with this because they were propelled into chaos.

As someone who has studied threat assessment in the military and as a civilian, my first concern is where was the emergency management response team at the Portland JetPort? Did they sit down in a meeting and decide together that this was a good idea? Did they weigh the pros and cons based on past tragedies at other airports? Is there someone assigned to perform emergency management functions like threat assessment, research of past breaches of security, prevention goals, and training for active shooters? If there was an airport emergency manager, they failed to take into consideration the latest airport shooting in the baggage claim at the Fort Lauderdale airport on January 6th, 2017. This active shooter packed a gun in his luggage, retrieved the gun from the luggage at the baggage claim, loaded the gun in the bathroom, and then aimed for passenger’s heads. He shot five people and wounded six others. There’s a great likelihood that those who witnessed the event have now experienced one of the most traumatic events in their life. The Fort Lauderdale airport admitted they did not have the police presence needed to effectively deal with the situation. Other airports have stepped up police presence and recognized the gaps in security in the baggage claim and ticketing areas. Portland JetPort invited more danger, put everyone’s lives at risk, and disregarded the fact that airports are a target to begin with.

Learn more:
Esteban Santiago: Details emerge of suspect in airport shooting
25,000 items need claiming after Fort Lauderdale airport shooting
Tips Learned from the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting
LAX beefs up security in wake of Fort Lauderdale airport mass shooting
Lambert Airport Police ‘Stepping Up’ Presence Following Ft. Lauderdale Shooting
Chicago police increase airport presence following Fort Lauderdale shooting
‘Sitting duck’? Ft. Lauderdale airport shooting raises new security questions
Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting Reignites ‘Soft Target’ Concerns
Fort Lauderdale Shooting Exposes Airport Security Gaps, Experts Say
Fort Lauderdale airport shooting reveals security flaws
Staffing cuts left area of Fort Lauderdale airport shooting unguarded

So as you can see, if we have a dangerous situation like someone retrieving a gun from their luggage at the baggage claim and then opening fire, why would we want to make an already dangerous situation even more dangerous? First, I am not even blaming protestors for the potential for violence because the potential was already there. The Portland JetPort just threw gasoline on the fire at everyone’s expense. They didn’t stop to think about how this protest had the potential to ignite an unsuspecting passenger with anger. They didn’t stop to think that someone who disagreed might learn they are at the baggage claim in large groups and target them. They didn’t stop to think that the politics and gas lighting in America has pushed protestors to levels of disrespect to property and those around them. This protest in an enclosed space in the small baggage claim area of the Portland JetPort is a perfect example. I as a passenger should not have to flee from a building because the airport did absolutely zero threat assessment. Do not tell me this was a public space and they coordinated a peaceful protest ahead of time. This was not peaceful for those who did not want to participate. No one can guarantee a peaceful protest in our current political climate. The airport took an unnecessary risk with everyone’s lives and quite frankly I don’t appreciate that.

This statement was filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission. This was a violation of public accommodations for people with mental disabilities.

The Portland Jetport did not take into consideration the impact allowing a group of angry protestors would have on travelers and people with disabilities. They obviously did not take into consideration the safety and security risks that could occur in a small tight space like the baggage claim. We paid an airline money to basically be accosted by an angry group of people upon our return trip home. This is hard on anyone let alone a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress or anyone with PTS (domestic violence victims, sexual assault victims, children, etc.) They run people off who pick up and drop off yet allow a large group of people in a small space to protest meanwhile not taking into account how this made an unsuspecting traveler feel. We are still feeling the impacts of the large crowd, noise and anger. It immediately put us into fight or flight mode. I ran from the building because of the potential danger in that space. My husband asked two police officers to escort him to get the luggage because of the impact the chaos had on our disability. My chiropractor had to release my body from fight or flight again.

How did they think it was okay to force a person with a disability to walk through a group of angry protestors and get luggage they were blocking at luggage carousel. It is basically asking us to take a risk with people holding signs that could be used as weapons. Never mind the fact that no one was at the door checking to make sure they didn’t have a gun. This put police officers lives at risk as well. It was not worth taking the public safety risk when they could have allowed them to protest in the cellphone lot behind a blockade to protect us as we were walking out too. The jetport is trying to fall back on the fact that they coordinated the peaceful protest with protestors and the police. No one can predict whether a protest in this current environment will in fact remain peaceful. I paid money to feel unsafe upon my return. This is discrimination against everyone who did not want to participate. This is discrimination against people with disabilities. Their rights do not trump mine. I have a right to return home to an airport that is being protected in the inside like it is on the outside. This is hypocrisy. We are safe behind the security check point but open ducks in ticketing and baggage claim.

The impact that this unsafe situation had on both my husband and I is felt today. We are still experiencing anxiety, hyper vigilance, fight or flight mode, and emotional distress. How does this group of people trump the safety of the entire airport given what just happened at the Fort Lauderdale airport. How does taking a safety risk with a large group of people in a small space that couldn’t be avoided trump the public safety of travelers, let alone the emotional/physical impacts it has on people with invisible disabilities. The Portland Jetport took an unnecessary risk with our lives and immediately impacted our feelings of safety, which triggered the post traumatic stress symptoms. I ran out of there crying because I cannot deal with crowds, loud noise, and anger. They did not consider the public safety of anyone by allowing a large, angry crowd to block a baggage carousel we needed access to. Portland Jetport wanted me to walk through angry people to get my stuff. We were sitting ducks in their if anyone opened fire. Public safety trumps this protest. I believe in protesting but not in the baggage claim area of the airport while a State representative stands on the carousel with a megaphone of anger. That was scary for everyone involved. I don’t care if it is a public space. Our safety trumps this hypocrisy.

The Portland Jetport is basically saying we will protect you at arrival and departure lanes and behind security check point but you are on your own in ticketing and baggage claim. They literally invited a large crowd of protestors in the building to make an already dangerous situation even more dangerous.

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