Shabbaton Attendee Arrested for Scaling Bridge

Yonathan Souid, 23, a Jewish college student from France who arrived in New York for a Chabad-sponsored Shabbaton in Crown Heights last weekend, was arrested by the NYPD for scaling the Brooklyn Bridge for a photo shoot.

The arrest occurred just hours before Yonatan’s scheduled flight back to Paris.

From the NY Daily News:

The latest European to be busted for scaling the Brooklyn Bridge is a tourist, not a terrorist, his lawyer said Monday. Yonathan Souid, 23, didn’t know that climbing the historic span was prohibited, said attorney James Medows.

“He acted like a foolish tourist,” Medows said of his client’s alleged actions, which got him arrested Sunday when snapping photos from the bridge’s beam.

Souid tolds cop he just wanted to take pictures, court records say, but prosecutors weren’t swayed by his passion. “It will not be tolerated,” Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said in a statement about the unlawful stunt — the third such incident in five months. “This is not a game and we will be seeking jail time,” the DA said.

Souid arrived to the U.S. on Nov 6. along with hundreds of Jewish students in conjunction with a conference of the Chabad movement.

“The boy loves to take pictures,” said Israel Shemtov, who hosted the visitor at his Crown Heights home over the weekend. “He’ll go anywhere.”

But after Souid went to a place in the city a photographer cannot go — hours before his flight back home was scheduled — he’s being forced to prolong his stay. He had to turn in his passport and was ordered back in court Dec. 9.

Click here to read the full story at the NY Daily News.

A petition to free Yonatan can be signed here.


  • 1. Unacceptable wrote:

    Tourists from Europe need to learn that if they visit the US they must abide by our laws. You can’t come to the US and do whatever you want. That being said, this is a country of laws and I hope he gets a good lawyer.

    • 2. Milhouse wrote:

      How are they supposed to know our laws? How is anyone supposed to know it’s illegal to climb that bridge? Are there signs, and if so are they in French? Without a sign in French telling him so, why would he even think it might be illegal?

    • 3. K wrote:

      Ignorance of the law is no defence.

      But aside from that, I suppose he assumed that “just as it is legal” in France to climb the Eiffel tower… no tat wouldn’t fly.

      Ah, but there was no sign – in French.

      It makes “perfect sense” that we place signs all over listing ALL the laws and regulations that could possibly apply – and have these signs in multiple languages…

      To suggest such silliness deserves a first prize award for Shoteh of the Year.

    • 4. Milhouse wrote:

      Ignorance of the law is no excuse, eh? Let’s hear you say that, Mr K, when you are arrested for one of the many felonies you undoubtedly commit every day without knowing it. Everybody breaks the law regularly, because nobody can possibly know all the laws. Most people in such circumstances deserve sympathy, but when you are arrested you will deserve everything that happens to you.

      The most fundamental principle of justice is that a person may not be punished if he was not on notice that he was breaking the law. If you want people to keep off your property you have to tell them so, or you can’t charge them with trespassing. There was no reason for this tourist to suppose that climbing the bridge was considered trespassing. There’d be no reason for English-speakers to suppose it, if there weren’t a sign in English saying so.

      And to throw someone in prison for trespassing?! Whoever heard of such a thing?

    • 5. K wrote:

      I guess you “did not know” that ignorence of the law is no defense (“But Your Honor, I did not know that!”)

      I suppose you have a sign on your front door, “Burglars are Forbidden Entry”and if your store has no sign, “Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted”, then the shoplifters have a valid excuse.

      Following your logic, we should all wear stickies on our forehead announcing to the world, It Is A Felony to Beat, Maim or Kill the Bearer of This Notice.

      I hereby nominate you to the well deserved title of World Champion Shoteh.

    • 6. Milhouse wrote:

      K, the principle that nobody can be held responsible for laws that he could not be expected to know is the most fundamental principle of justice. אין עונשין אא״כ מזהירין. Any system that punishes people without putting them on notice is corrupt and unjust, and all decent people must condemn it.

      You are, however, without a ought, a multiple felon, as is everybody in these United States. The average American commits three felonies a day, without knowing it.

      For your information, the law is that people are allowed to innocently enter private property unless they are told not to. It is perfectly legal for me to enter your front yard and walk up to your front door, unless you specifically inform me that I may not do so. The Brooklyn Bridge, like all public property, is presumed to be open to the public, unless there’s a sign that says otherwise. And if that sign is only in English then foreigners cannot be expected to know that they are not allowed there.

    • 7. K wrote:

      Walking up to the front door is allowed because of a legal doctrine of “implied invitation” – that homeowners “invite” others to come up to their front door for purposes such as deliveries, to notify owner, borrow a cup of sugar, say hello etc.

      This implied invitation is exceptional and applies ONLY up to the front door (unless the “invitation” is revoked by notice).

      But going with your example, I suppose you find nothing wrong with someone climbing up the side of your house and walking on the roof?!! I assume there are no signs on your house that forbid climbing the walls, and if there are, do you also have a sign on the roof – in multiple languages?!

      You continue to bring evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you qualify as an Olympian Gold Medal Champion Shoteh of the Year.

  • 8. Example wrote:

    One cannot rule-out anti-semitism,. But that would be hard to prove, in this day and age of terrorism successfully reaching American shores, and previous security breaches at bridges and other structures.

    Ordinarily, no one should be punished for this, and, in safer times, he would not have been prosecuted. The problem, however, is that, if they go lenient on him, then any up-to- no-good nick can take advantage of “ignorance of the law, ” pull something off, and just get away with it, because of ignorance.
    So, he presented an opportunity for law-enforcement to make an example out of somebody, as a deterrent to anymore copycats doing such things, relying on,”well, I didn’t know.” I mean, shouldn’t climbing any structure like that, in a dangerous and unusual way, at least, raise a question in anyone’s mind if such a stunt is legal?

    • 9. Milhouse wrote:

      No, of course it’s not antisemitism. They’d have treated him exactly the same no matter who he was. And it would be just as unjust.

      And no, there’s no reason for a person to suppose that climbing a bridge is illegal, unless he is informed of it.

      There isn’t actually a law against climbing bridges; he’s being charged with trespassing, i.e. being on private property against the owner’s orders. To bring such a charge, the owner must first give people notice that they’re not allowed there. This person had no such notice, because he couldn’t read the sign. A blind person would be in the same situation.

    • 10. K wrote:

      Following this “logic” – if you aren’t fluent in English, you can ignore the “No Parking” signs….

      Is there no limit to your silliness?! Shoteh Sh’ain Lo Shiyur! Ain-Sof D’Shtus!!


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