Belgian Translator Gets Taste of American Justice, Airline Style

Belgian Gets a Taste of Airline Justice

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

Nicholas Cantisani still has nightmares from his arrest when he was dragged off his airline flight in April. His crime? He leaped to his feet, charged the cockpit, and threatened everyone on board.

Just kidding. He was arrested for asking why the flight was delayed for more than two hours. So Philadelphia police dragged Cantisani off the flight, and held him for hours without any food or water.

Cantisani, who is blind from birth, was sitting on the plane with his wife. They had been in New York visiting family, and were returning home to Brussels, Belgium. Their plane had backed away from the gate, and sat on the runway for two hours without moving.

Airlines will back away from a gate and call it a departure. They do it so they can keep their on-time departure stats up. However, the time of the landing is marked when the plane touches down, not when it arrives at the gate. Either way, they can sit and wait for as long as they want, and there's not a darn thing you can do about it, because they'll arrest you if you raise a stink.

Just ask Cantisani.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, Cantisani, who is a professional translator, was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He was arraigned this past Thursday.

After the plane sat for a while, they were told the plane would be delayed, but were not given any reasons why. Cantisani said they weren't allowed to use their phones, receive any food or drinks from the flight attendants, or even move from their seats.

Cantisani, not being familiar with the martial law imposed by all airlines when it comes to questioning their authority, stood up to ask for water and to speak to the crew. He was ordered to sit down instead.

Later, he talked with the captain, and was told the problem was "mechanical difficulties." No problem. Cantisani sat back down and waited.

Sometime later, another passenger made a comment about the crew, so three cops escorted him off the plane. (Oh sure, THEY get to move around.) Then they tried to remove Cantisani.

So Cantisani, flashing back to the "then they came for me" poem by Martin Niemöller, refused to leave, shouting "I am not a trade unionist."

Just kidding. He actually did refuse to leave, clutching his seat belt so tightly they couldn't take him away. And three cops against a blind 61-year-old man will win every time. He injured his hand, lost his retractable cane, and said one cop had him by the throat.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, told the Daily News they had been called to the gate because of "a disorderly passenger." He did not specify if the rabble rouser was Cantisani or the other passenger who hurted the crew's feewings.

My favorite line in the whole story:

"Officers told him they had done the 'blind test' and didn't believe he was blind"

Lt. Vanore said he did not know of any "blind test" that the police did. In fact, I don't know that there is any kind of "blind test" ever.

I used to work in the blindness field for over a year, and I can tell you there is no such thing as a "blind test." At least not one a police officer is certified to give. Which makes me think their so-called test involved jumping out and shouting "BOO!" Or more likely it involved the cops hollering "I SAID, CAN YOU HEAR ME?"

Cantisani was then questioned by a psychiatrist to determine his mental state.


At 3:00 a.m., he was taken to the police station, and was detained until late that evening.

"I was never read my rights. I was put against the wall, told to put [my] hands on the wall, empty [my] pockets and undo my shoelaces," Cantisani told the Daily News. "Then, I was shoved into a 6-by-7-foot cell and that was it."

Cantisani said no one believed he was blind until the end of his stay. I hope they at least felt stupid enough to apologize to him.


Cantisani said he is not planning to return to Philadelphia, which means his lawyer will represent him in court. It also means Cantisani is able to remain in Europe and tell the Philadelphia Police what they can do with their arraignment.


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