05 July 2006

A T-Shirt Is Not A Crime

This afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center on Chicago’s south side, a Veterans Administration cop walked up to me and said, "OK, you’ve had your 15 minutes, it’s time to go."

"Huh?", I asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.

"You can’t be in here protesting," officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans For Peace shirt.

"Well, I’m not protesting, I’m having a cup of coffee," I returned, thinking that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of guarding against serious terrorists.

Flipping his badge open, he said, "No, not with that shirt. You’re protesting and you have to go."

Beginning to get his drift, I said firmly, "Not before I finish my coffee."

He insisted that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one more approach to reason. "Hey, listen. I’m a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I’m sitting here not talking to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I’m not protesting and you can’t kick me out."

"You’ll either go or we’ll arrest you," Adkins threatened.

"Well, you’ll just have to arrest me," I said, wondering what strange land I was now living in.

You know the rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility’s security office past people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights, searched, and written up.

From here, with a hat tip to here.

I'd like to hope at the applicable U.S. Attorney's office, the same office where Patrick Fitzgerald works, knows better than to try to prosecute this case. A prompt dismissal might prevent a major civil suit. The U.S. Attorney's office in Denver took a similar stance in the case of an overzealous federal security officer at the Lakewood federal center on an RTD bus. But, these days, you never know.

I'm far less confident that the VA security guard, who should be written up and probably suspended from his job without pay for a few days for an incident like this one, will feel any consequences at all.

But, you know, false arrest is typical of the way that the Bush Administration supports its troops.

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