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Guns, Drugs, and Thugs

The Courier-News on February 4 editorialized that the NRA was moving towards the fringe as evidenced by their fund-raising letter that called government law enforcement agents “jack-booted thugs.” Whether or not the Courier-News editorial board criticizes the NRA board for just being politically incorrect, or if they really think that the NRA was mistaken in its claim, is rather immaterial. The fact is, that law enforcement—federal, state and local—definitely has elements of jack-booted thuggery in its ranks. My problem with the NRA is that they tend to see this thuggery only when it concerns gun rights. Groups hovering on the left side of the political spectrum see government thuggery when it comes to the drug war. Fact is, both sides are right. Gun advocates and drug re-legalizers should come together on this issue. Until now government has successfully divided and conquered. To fight back this thuggery, those disparate advocates should join together on the principle of individual freedom/self responsibility and send the practice of government-agency thuggery to the dust bin of history.

Are government law-enforcement agents jack-booted thugs? Let me count the ways . . .

Scores of women and children died in flames at the hands of the BATF and the FBI at Waco, Texas, as the government rammed the Davidians’ building with tanks while shooting CS gas (banned by international treaty) inside their home. Some government officials admit that CS gas dispersed indoors can be highly flammable if subjected to a spark or open flame. The agents also threw flash-bang grenades inside the WACO home. According to Colonel Rex Applegate, one of the nation’s foremost experts on riot control, “Any flash-bang will start fires.” And Rolland Ballesteros, one of the first ATF agents out of the cattle trucks when the ATF agents went into the Branch Davidian home without announcing their presence, told the Texas Rangers and WACO police shortly after the raid that he thought the first shots came from agents shooting the Davidian dogs.

Customs agents confiscated the $113,000 that a Vietnamese mother had collected from twenty families in the Seattle area to take back to Vietnam for humanitarian relief for their relatives. (Customs officials pronounced the woman guilty of violating the Trading with the Enemy Act.)

Vicki Weaver was shot dead in cold blood while holding her ten-month-old baby by FBI marksman Lon Horiuchi at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The previous day, agents had shot Vicki’s 14-year-old son, Sammy,  dead—in the back.

On October 2, 1992, 61 year-old Donald Scott was shot dead in his home when thirty-one officers from eight law enforcement agencies smashed into his home unannounced. His wife screamed when she saw the intruders. Scott grabbed for his gun to protect his wife, and the raiders, who were equipped with automatic weapons, flak jackets and a battering ram, shot him dead. Scott never pointed his gun at anybody. The motivation: he owned a 200 acre ranch in Malibu, CA, adjacent to a national forest that the FEDs were coveting. A so-called “confidential informant” had said that Scott was growing marijuana plants on his property. (The informant denied ever making such a statement.) The agents could find no illicit drugs or plants anywhere on his 200-acre property. To add insult to murder, the IRS is trying to take the estate away from Scott’s widow.

From 1985 to 1991, governments in the US have seized over $600 million through asset forfeiture laws. In 75% of the cases, no one was ever charged with a crime. In order to get ones property back, one must prove a negative—that he or she didn’t commit a crime—a virtual impossibility. Guilty until proven innocent. Does that sound like the America that we read about in our high school government and history books?

One example of this is the case of Willie Jones, a hard-working gardener who paid cash for an airline ticket, not knowing that airline-ticket agents often provide “tips” to policemen about travelers who pay for tickets with cash. The assumption is that anybody buying an airline ticket with cash is a drug dealer. The cops confronted Jones, and confiscated $9,600 he was carrying for purchase of shrubbery for his landscaping business—he was flying to a gardening convention to purchase plants for next year’s work. Although the agents “arrested” his cash, Jones was never charged with anything, and he didn’t have additional money to go to court to “prove his innocence”. So law enforcement kept the money. Jones observed, “I didn’t know it was against the law for a 42-year-old black man to have money in his pocket.”

In 1989, DEA agents raided 71 indoor gardening stores brandishing automatic weapons commandeering business records, customer lists and merchandise. Over $9 million of assets were seized. No one was charged with a crime. These stores sold water irrigation supplies and grow lights, the likes of which can be bought at many major department stores such as Wal Mart. Interestingly, no major department stores were raided.

In 1992, The FDA, working behind the scenes, prompted the Texas Department of Health (TDH) and Texas Department of Food and Drug to undertake raids upon over a dozen health food stores. Over 250 different products—a list 88 pages long—was forcibly seized from shelves. The list included flaxseed oil, effervescent vitamin C, various herbs, Sleepytime Tea, aloe vera, and zinc products. Following a public outcry and restraining reactions from Texas politicians, the TDH officers threatened one of the health food store owners, “Don’t talk to the press, or we’ll come down on you twice as hard.” No justifications were given for the inclusion of any of the products on the seizure list, no charges were filed, and none of the products were ever returned to the stores.

One raid on a St. Louis home was ended after a detective of the St. Louis Police Department in an effort to search a ceiling for drugs, accidentally stepped on the head of a baby while attempting to climb onto a couch. No apology from the policeman; no penalty was imposed on him.

In March 1992, a police SWAT team killed Robin Pratt, an Everett, WA, mother in a no-knock raid carrying out an arrest warrant for her husband. Her husband was released later after the allegations upon which the arrest warrant were based turned out to be false. According to the Seattle Times, “Instead of using an apartment key given to them, SWAT members threw a 50-pound battering ram through a sliding-glass door that landed near the heads of Pratt’s 6-year-old daughter and 5-year-old niece. As [policeman] Aston rounded the corner to the Pratts’ bedroom, he encountered Robin Pratt. SWAT members were yelling, ‘Get down,’ and she started to crouch onto her knees. She looked up at Aston and said, ‘Please don’t hurt my children.’ . . . Aston had his gun pointed at her and fired, shooting her in the neck. According to Muenster, she was alive another one-to-two-minutes but could not speak because her throat had been destroyed by the bullet. She was hand-cuffed, lying face down.”

In 1991, DEA agents used an ax to break down the door of an innocent man’s house in Guthrie, OK. They hand-cuffed and kicked him in front of his wife and daughters before they realized they were at the wrong address; the agents left without apologizing.

On November 28, 1984, IRS agents raided the Engleworld Learning Center (a day-care center) in the Detroit suburb of Allen Park, MI, because of overdue taxes. The IRS agents forced parents to pay the center’s taxes when they came to pick up their children. According to the Washington Times, “Inside were a handful of bewildered parents, unable even to see their children until they paid money for taxes they did not owe to two IRS agents sitting near the entrance. Allegedly, the children—as many as 30 of them—could not run to greet their parents . . . as ordinarily was their custom. IRS agents kept them closely guarded in Room C of the center. At least one agent was posted in another room where pre-schoolers, some still in diapers, were detained.” Parents were not allowed to see their children until they signed an agreement with the IRS to pay up.

In recent years, the farm journal Acres, USA has exposed numerous examples where individual farmers, who were making legal challenges to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) rulings about crop quotas or loan-security arrangements, had their homes, land and farm equipment seized at gun-point by the USDA. A few farmers have been shot dead.

Legal and constitutionally-protected citizen opposition to federal government policies has been met by increasingly aggressive and militant reactions by policemen, armed with machine guns, flak jackets, concussion grenades, and tanks. The USDA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, US Customs Service, US Postal Service and the US Forest Service (USFS) have all developed well-armed “security forces”, equipped with Special Weapons and Assault Tactical (SWAT) teams, armored personnel carriers, military-style attack aircraft, and other forms of sophisticated weaponry that flagrantly defy the Constitutional ban against the use of military forces for domestic law enforcement.

The preceding examples just scratch the surface of the extent of the problem. To complete the list would require the length of a thick book. These examples come from Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty, by James Bovard (St. Martin’s Press), and Anti-Constitutional Activities and Abuse of Police Power by the US Food and Drug Administration and other Federal Agencies, by James DeMeo Ph.D., Director of Research, Oregon Biophysical Research Laboratory, Ashland, Oregon.

I fault the individual agents much less than I do the sanctioning of this activity by government. In fact, in some of these instances, the Supreme Court has placed its imprimatur.

Fundamentally, though, the fault goes beyond government. It rests with opinion leaders such as the Courier-News editorial board who tries to mitigate these activities by putting down the likes of the NRA for daring to challenge the jack-booted thugs.

And even more to the point, the fault lies with the complacent US citizen who sleeps—sleeps while being pre-occupied with the “Super Bowl”, “OJ”, and “Beverly Hills, 90210"—sleeps while the lives, fortunes and sacred honor of fellow US citizens are being snuffed—sleeps while continuing to vote for more of the same from the Republicans and Democrats—sleeps while the last remnants of liberty and the Constitution end up shredded, lying in the trash heap of history.

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