2007-05-10 / Front Page

Squid bear silent witness to fishing pier controversy

By Donna K. Drago

Gregg Zeek just wants to fish on the wood pile pier. Gregg Zeek just wants to fish on the wood pile pier. There are two sides to every story.

This one is about who started what on the wood pile pier last Saturday night.

To hear fisherman Greg Zeek's account is to hear a story of rude, unnecessarily loud and argumentative police officers harassing fishermen at the pier.

The police account is one of following orders and attempting to patrol docks where several complaints have recently been filed.

Zeek's side of the story An island fisherman and bait shop owner, Zeek said that the of- ficers came

out on the wood pile pier Saturday night, about 11:30 p.m. and "they just started yelling."

Zeek said the two officers, using harsh tones, ordered all 15 or so of the squid fishermen off the pier immediately and threatened further action if anyone disobeyed. When he confronted the officers about being thrown off, Zeek, a lifelong and well-known fisherman in Jamestown, said he lost his temper and, "blew up at them," reminding them that the pier was, in fact, usable as a fishing pier by members of the public.

"I fish for a living," Zeek said, and being thrown off the pier after just a few hours resulted in his, "working for no pay that night."

Zeek said he was told by the officers that they were just following orders from Police Chief Tom Tighe.

The police officer's turn

Sgt. Angela Deneault said she and Sgt. Keith Woodbine arrived at East Ferry in separate cruisers. Woodbine was already walking down to the pier when Deneault said she was opening the door of her car. As she was walking nearer to the scene, Deneault said she saw Greg Zeek, who she recognized, yelling at Sgt. Woodbine. "He said we were harassing the fishermen, we were racists, we were discriminating," against the foreign-born fishermen, several of whom were on the pier that night.

"In my opinion," Sgt. Deneault said, "he was trying to get the others going," meaning he was attempting to incite a scene.

Zeek continues

He said he asked the officers for their names and badge numbers and later called friends on the Harbor Management Commission for help in rectifying the situation, which he categorized as wrongfully being thrown off the wood pile pier.

Bob Bowen, of the HMC, said he did some checking on Sunday to see if he could corroborate Zeek's account of what happened.

Bowen said he found the night watchman at Conanicut Marina, who observed the police action at the pier. According to Bowen, the watchman called the police "rude and loud," and said he "couldn't believe," what was going on.

The wood pile pier, according to Bowen, can be used by the public at all hours, as stated in the Harbor Ordinance. "There is no reason at all," why fishermen were asked to leave the pier Saturday night, Bowen said, adding this kind of publicity is, "not what the harbor commission needs." Bowen said the rules were clarified last year, "and they worked."

"There shouldn't be any confusion," about the ordinance, Bowen said.

"We know the laws," said Sgt. Deneault.

Deneault said she and Woodbine tried to "explain to Mr. Zeek," the true purpose of their routine patrol in the area, "but he was really worked up."

Deneault said that in recent days, several complaints had been lodged by boat owners that fishermen had been boarding private boats, fishing from private docks, leaving behind litter and also using electric outlets to illuminate their squidding lights, on the docks that are paid for by the slip owners.

"We were under orders to make sure none of that was happening," Deneault said.

"We know they can fish from the wood pile pier," Deneault added.

Deneault said that "no one was thrown off the pier," that night, but she and Woodbine did threaten to take action against Zeek if he continued to act in a disorderly manner.

"He was the only one misbehaving," Deneault said about the group that night. "His behavior was terrible," she added.

Lt. Bill Donovan of the Jamestown Police Department said about the ongoing situation, "If there's a solution, I don't know what it is."

Donovan said much of the problem comes from lack of space, and

It's just not a good mix," with fishermen casting over boats and getting tangled in dock lines, etc.

To get some distance between them, fishermen are routinely boarding private boats and fishing off the bows, Donovan said. Not only that, they are leaving behind litter, footprints and squid ink. "If people just respected each others' property," we wouldn't have to spend so much time trying to enforce the laws down there, Donovan said.

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