Article Lead Image

Arrest and report

A New Yorker, confronted and arrested in small town, takes his story to Reddit.


Kevin Morris

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 7, 2011   Updated on Jun 3, 2021, 3:33 am CDT

Social news site Reddit is becoming as much a place to break news as it is to share news.

Take the case of New Yorker John Zwinck.

A few months ago Zwinck read a story about a unique town called Kiryas Joel. The orthodox Jewish community is officially the poorest community in the United States. But, as the New York Times reported: “It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent.”

How could the poorest community in the U.S. bear none of the classic signs of poverty? Two weeks ago Zwinck decided to go and have a look for himself.  

He and a few friends hiked their way into the town, where they began taking pictures. In no time two town officials drove up and demanded to see identification from the group. Zwinck and his friends refused.

Soon after, the New York State Police arrived. They arrested Zwinck and his friends for “obstructing government administration.” All charges were later dropped.

Zwinck’s story was picked up on the local news (video below).

And he also turned to Reddit’s built-in international audience.  His story hit the site’s front page on Sunday, attracting over 3,600 comments.

Zwinck wrote in his post that he had no intention of rabble rousing when he visited. He said he was on a public road when the town’s officials asked for his identification.

“It seemed like a unique place that we could take a day trip to, get in a good bit of walking, and see how people live outside the city,” he wrote on Reddit.

But that changed when he and his friends were confronted and eventually arrested:  “I value the fact that in America we can walk on the street, even if we look different from others, and not be treated as ‘suspicious’ Liberty is not just paying taxes and staying in your own home town.”

Redditors asked Zwinck a lot of questions many of which he responded to directly —  and many of which any journalist would be proud. The discussion also branched off into some smart (and surprisingly non-confrontational) debates on orthodox Judaism and other religions with isolationist bents..

Twitter might steal all the headlines for citizen journalism in action. But on Reddit, stories don’t just break, and aren’t just retweeted.

They’re given a level of context impossible in 140 characters or less.

Share this article
*First Published: Aug 7, 2011, 5:19 pm CDT