Songbird's Arrest

Howdy, Apparently, Pepper Spray was used on Rainbows, then on Earth Firsters etc.. Justice for one (HeadWaters) could mean Justice for All (Rainbow). please check out Welcome Home web page for more information on struggle of Rainbow-style individuals just to be on public land, let alone having a say in the destruction of individual liberty, right to free speech. This took place at Ocala, Florida Regional Gathering.

Barry Plunker

Songbird's Ocala Blues - Her Arrest At The Feb '97 Gathering

I am doing well. There are many kind people around me and I have enjoyed their company. There has yet to be a moment that I am needy. Thanks and praise! The land is so beautiful and comforting. Life is good [insert happy face]. I have been reaching out to many who cover law. And media things look positive! The road is a long one with many complications. Lots of waiting. I guess this is my cosmic lesson in patience. I'm trying to use these suspended periods to touch others' lives. To let people know that the only way to bring about change is to make changes. To be strong and be heard. To stand rooted in what you hold true and what is right. To have enough love and respect for ourself and others that you are driven to make life better. ONE LOVE>MANY HEARTS! I only wish that people would take more pride in the love that connects all living things. Maybe then the world would be truly happy. I am still in Dade City on a farm. We will be driving the school bus to the Missouri gathering in time for clean-up. I hope to collect my thoughts, build my spirits, feed lots of hungry people, and encourage folks to actively participate in the court battle. My trial has yet to be given a date, but Bill Gier is the public defender for all the vigil arrest cases. I would like to tell you about my arrest in the Ocala National Forest in Florida.

There was, like usual, a road block. It was set up on the Forest Service road 552 which ran into the camping sites. Like I said, this is nothing unusual, but the law activity at this particular forest was ridiculous and wrong. Forest Service vehicles were constantly driving through the site with video cameras. Helicopters were doing the same thing from above. These activities were also were also happening at the road block, where many illegal searches of both vehicles and persons were taking place. So many were arrested and even more harassed by the use of drug dogs and unconsented searches. This is pathetic and sad. So much wasted time, energy and money on people who came together to share prayers, nature, and life!

Many were feeling unhappy about the Lake County and Merion County Sheriff's Department, National Forest Services, and the US National Guard's unjust treatment to campers. A peaceful vigil to witness the police activity formed near the road block Saturday, Feb. 22, 1997. I decided to go to the road block area to witness the police activity, to enjoy the rain with those coming into the forest that day. When I reached the blockade, there were thirty or so people gathered. The music was spiritually uplifting and the rain cold. We were having so much fun praying and celebrating the safe arrivals of those who passed through the road block!

The officers on the scene were from the lake County and Merion County Sheriff's Department and National Forest Service and other national agencies, and they were beginning to get annoyed with our energy and praises, for they were making rude comments about out presence. They told us that they were concerned about the flow of traffic since we were dancing across the dirt road. Even though we never caused a vehicle to stop because of interference, we agreed not to interrupt this flow. When a vehicle approached from either direction, we cleared the road and wished them love. We continued our music and kept a watchful eye for oncoming vehicles. Then the officers began threatening our safety by walking police dogs through the crowd and pulling out containers of pepper-gas and holding them out towards people in the crowd.

This was scary! We circled together and prayed for understanding. Soon after, police tape was brought out, prisoner shuttles and more police vehicles arrived. We were informed that a police line was being put up and anyone who crossed the line would be arrested. The West side of the road was taped off in such a way that there was no area to stand. When asked about this action, the officers laughed and said, "Well, I thought you people like the woods anyway."

Next, the Eastern side of the road, which was where the crowd was gathered, was blocked by tape. The tape was strung from two police vehicles and hung near the side of the road where the grass met the sand. The confined area was much too small for the forty-some people present. Being extremely cramped, many kids started to disperse. Some gathered their things to leave, some sat down and made music, some continued to dance in their personal space, and others began preparing food and tending to the fire.

I went over to the fire and started drying off from the afternoon's rain. I was conversing with a friend, Kyle, when Cameron, escorted by two officers, walked across the road out of sight. I asked people around me what was going on but no one knew. Then a young brother ran through the confined area with several officers behind him. He was bare footed and petrified, they had clubs in their hands and guns on their waists. They ran into the woods and out of sight. When I turned around, I saw Chris being pulled and grabbed by many officers. He was clearly standing on the 'correct' side of the line and he had been taking pictures with his camera of the prior arrests so he was trying to hand his camera to someone in the crowd. The crowd had Chris' head and the officers grabbed him, contorting him into a low and stretched back bend. He was not pushing or yelling. They were hurting him!

When I saw that he was being falsely arrested and violently grabbed and drug, I ran over and spoke as a witness to the truth. I said to the officers, "He did not cross the line." Pepper-gas burned my throat.

My wrists were grabbed, each by a different officer, and yanked away from my body. I flew forward to the ground and was jerked up to my knees. The police line was lifted and eventually snapped as the officers pulled us under. We were on the ground with approximately seven officers on us. I was dragged across the road face down and lifted up only to be thrown back down and then yanked up to my knees and then thrown back down... I questioned the officers saying, "I do not understand. No one crossed the line." I could hear Monica scream in pain. I hurt all over from forceful twists. There were more officers handling me and the next thing I knew I was rubbed chest down across a wood topped table. I still could not place my foot flat on the ground because my legs were spread eagle and my pelvic area pressed on the table. Then my arms locked in the back and my legs were pushed while the officer placing the cuffs on told me to stand up and turn around. I said, "OK." When I turned around I noticed a scratch about two inches long on my chest and it was bleeding. I told the officer and he asked me where it was, and so I told him. He looked and then escorted me over to the shuttle. Again I announced my injury and asked for medical attention. I was ignored.

Two days and five hundred dollars later, I was bailed out. I had asked for medical treatment and documentation of my injury but was ignored. I was never read my rights or told why I was arrested until already in jail. Officers I came into contact with throughout the arrest, processing, and jail time were constantly making comments about my life style and appearance. I felt discriminated against!

"Hippie"-looking people travelling through the Tavares area are still getting harassed. Chris was put back in jail after getting choked and pepper gassed again for doing nothing more than laughing with his friends. I am torn inside.

I only wish that these violent law keepers find some happiness in their life so that they stop taking their hurt out on happy people who they (officers) do not understand.

I Love You. Please share this letter with others so that the truth is known. Please encourage others to unite in truth. If anyone can assist, in any way, please direct them to me. Any information about these and similar cases that could be publicized could also aid many. I don't think people know that police brutality and the abuse of power by law enforcers are practiced in their communities. I don't think people are aware that tax money is spent on selective harassment on public land.

Please encourage people to stand strongly rooted in what is true and right by spreading the information about the depletion of our basic civil and human rights. Please spread love and show respect to yourself and others by encouraging free practice of these rights so that, through unity, we can live happily.