San Francisco Customs

When I came back from Bangkok through Immigration in San Francisco, they put on their red lamp, which means that special government officials will investigate. They took me into another room. Other people also were in the room. Then three more officers came.

I showed them my little Galaxy pamphlet, but they just said, "We have to search you thoroughly."

I said, "First search me thoroughly. Then let me write down your badge number."

Immediately they covered their badges with their hands. I said, "If you have the right to search me, I have the right to know who you are. First you do your duty. Then you have to give me your names."

When I got angry, one fellow said, "Sometimes we find drugs inside innocent people's suitcases because others put them there."

Then I opened everything, but they didn't really search my bags. I said, "Now give me your names."

They said, "All right, if you don't mind, take off this belt."

I took off the cloth belt I wear to support my back.

Then the officer said, "Sorry, this is only a formality." He did not suspect me; he was only harassing me.

Finally I got really furious. Then another officer started carrying my bags to the place where the baggage for New York should go.

When they start to harass you right and left, you have to challenge them. But in the end I didn't get their names or badge numbers. So even if I send a letter of complaint to the San Francisco Customs, nobody will know who the officers were.

— 31 March 1983