Under Arrest in Accra

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By Alexandra Fruin> Senior> Broadcast Journalism/Political Science>University of Miami
For most college students studying abroad, snapping photos—of everything and anything– becomes second nature. Dave Schutt, now a senior at Gustavus Aldolphus College in Minnesota, was no exception when he sailed on the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program last fall. Despite mild warnings from faculty members, Schutt didn’t actually think taking photos would lead him into actual danger– until he found himself under arrest in Ghana.

After missing an organized trip with his program, Schutt, then 20, set out to tour the capital city of Accra alone. When he came upon the Nkrumah Memorial, he “snapped a couple of photos and didn’t think anything of it,”­– just as he had done before with countless monuments elsewhere.

Yet, unlike his other experiences, Schutt soon found himself cornered by a group of men.
“One of them grabbed my shoulder and my camera at the same time, yelling at me that I couldn’t take photos,” recalls Schutt. “Before I knew it, a police officer comes over to us and said ‘Come with me.’ At first, I thought he was helping me get away from the guy, but then he said ‘Get in the car, you’re under arrest.’"

Locked in the confines of a Ghanaian police car, Schutt quickly realized that he not only did not have his passport, but he also had no contact information for his program. “All I had on me was my driver’s license and $12—that was all I had.”
On the way to the station, the officer, a taser in hand, informed Schutt that each of the five photos he had taken would cost him $100. “He said, ‘David, I do not want to punish you…’ with this little grin on his face. The entire time I’m thinking, ‘Is he actually going to hit me with me? Is he about to tase me?’”

Once the officer finished collected Schutt’s information at the police station, Schutt offered him most of the money he was carrying. “It only cost me $10 to be released, but if I had had more, it would have cost me more.”

Even though Schutt says his eye-opening experience “for some reason didn’t freak me out,” he learned valuable lessons for his travels abroad.

“I started asking if I could take pictures… and I always made sure to carry a copy of my passport– and some change, just in case I needed to make a desperate call.”  

Image Courtesy of simplyyourspecialday.com/blog

College Magazine Staff

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