How to get from Brooklyn Bridge to Riker’s Island

A Frenchman has become the latest tourist to embarrass the New York security apparatus by managing to scale the Brooklyn Bridge.

The authorities have wasted no time in making an example of 23-year-old Yonatan Souid, who was charged on Monday for “reckless endangerment and criminal trespass” after he jumped a fence and shimmied up a beam above the bridge before police officers literally shouted him down.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson described Souid’s actions as “foolish and unlawful” and pledged to seek jail time for the amateur photographer.

Souid’s lawyer agreed that his client had acted like a “foolish tourist,” but insisted that he was not a daredevil but just really bad at English. “There were no signs in French saying you can't climb the bridge,” James Meadows told the judge.

Souid, who was visiting New York on a four-day religious trip and was supposed to return home on Sunday, might now be forced to learn more than “do not trespass” in English -- he is facing up to a year in prison.

Strangely enough, titles and comments on his Flickr stream suggest a pretty good grasp of the language.

Calls for a hefty punishment for Souid come on the heels of a string of similar incidents this year, in what looks to be a trend of tourists attempting to climb the iconic bridge. In July, two US flags on the Brooklyn Bridge were replaced by whitewashed versions during the night, in a stunt claimed by two German artists. Last week, activists unfurled a giant Palestinian flag on the neighbouring Manhattan Bridge, and in August a Russian visitor was arrested for climbing one of the Brooklyn Bridge towers to take a selfie (which he managed to do). 

Following that incident, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to make security changes “in short order”.

The NYPD are supposed to be setting up extra security cameras. But that leaves the quandary of the language problem Souid supposedly faced.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is sure of the solution. He told local radio station WCBS 880 on Tuesday that tourists looking to have quite such a unique New York experience should get to spend time in another of the city’s "greatest landmarks -- Rikers Island,” a notorious prison.

Top photo © Dave Schumaker on Flickr. 
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As a Frenchman in the US, I am a bit ashamed by this stupid behavior. But this really feels like this guy is being made an example of. A free trip to Rikers does seem a bit excessive! That being said, I am not sure trying to use the language as an excuse is the smartest thing to do. It is not rocket science (even assuming a limited understanding of the English language) to understand that a fence means "Entree interdite"!

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