An international incident began five days ago when a Danish couple met on Saturday for dinner and drinks at a Barbeque restaurant in the East Village part of New York City. The mother, visiting from Copenhagen for a month, brought their 14-month old daughter with them.
The father, in addition to working for Disney, is also a playwright and has lived as a squatter in vacant buildings in the neighborhood. As is often done in Denmark, they left the baby carriage outside the restaurant. The parents were at a table two meters away, separated from the child by two tables and a plate glass window.
Employees of the restaurant and other diners asked about the child’s safety, but the parents insisted that everything was fine. One customer called 911. Police arrested both parents, who were jailed for three days.
The child was taken and placed in foster care. The father was additionally charged with disorderly conduct, and both parents have a Monday court date.
This became a tale of two cities; New York, where leaving your child unattended outside a restaurant is a crime, and Copenhagen, where the same act is normal procedure.
By the next day, the case was famous on two continents. New Yorkers were stunned by the idea of parents leaving their child on the sidewalk. Danes were outraged by the idea of police arresting parents sitting near their child.
The parents` lawyer said the parents had no idea that there was anything wrong with what they were doing. They were on one side of a glass partition, and on the other side was the child. A spokesman for the Danish Consulate said that a Dane would find it strange that you could actually be charged here with leaving your child outside a place very near where you could see what was going on.
While the mother has regained custody of her child, New York officials insisted that police acted properly in charging the child’s father with endangering the welfare of a child.
One official said, “To leave a child unattended for an hour on a city street in New York is pretty inappropriate.”