Ocala Defense Project-- 22 March 1998

1802 SE 45th Terr. Gainesville, FL 32641

Contacts for Info: Arjay Sutton (352-481-2489) <pronoid@gator.net>

Scottie Addison (618-548-2871) <scottie@dol.com>


...Police Roadblocks & Sweeps on Mississippi Gathering!

U.S. Forest Service Police -- supported by the Copiah and Hinds County Sheriff's Departments, and reportedly Federal Marshals -- have mounted an aggressive assault on the Dixie Regional Gathering in Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi. This is the latest in a series of law enforcement actions around the country targeting participants in peaceful public assemblies with intimidation and harassment, and the most violent in several years.

On Friday night (3/20) a multi-agency police roadblock was set up with approximately 40 vehicles in front of the gathering entrance, complete with K-9 units and a regular goon squad. According to a bail bondsman in Copiah County, MS, 30 to 40 people were arrested at the roadblock and in the gathering itself, mostly on minor beer & pot possession charges. There is heavy Police presence on-site, with close video surveillance and many illegal searches & seizures.

Numerous law enforcement abuses have been documented so far:

~ Police have publicly strip-searched women, and tied a pregnant woman to a tree; a mother was verbally abused by officers and told they were coming back to take her 7-year-old daughter.

~ One man trying to videotape incidents was assaulted by officers, and his video camera seized. Police also attacked others recording names and badge numbers, and their lists were taken.

~ A teacher at a local university gave someone a ride to the gathering; the rider was holding some pot and cocaine. The teacher and car were clean, but he is in jail... no bail has been set.

Communications are being consolidated with people on-site and nearby, and victims are documenting their experiences. Volunteers are working to prepare prompt legal action to stop such abuses on the gathering in Homochitto N .F., with concern for the well-being and freedom of participants -- especially through the upcoming major weekend of the event, 3/27-29.

Lawsuits are currently pending elsewhere against the Forest Service and local police agencies, for similar roadblocks and other extraordinary enforcement affecting First Amendment events...

-- in Missouri, a claim was filed after the Rainbow Gathering in July 96 (# 96-3288-CV-S-3); the Government has moved to stay proceedings while a National Check Point Policy is considered.

-- in Florida, a Feb.97 gathering in Ocala N.F. suffered 90 roadblock arrests, and harassment resumed as the Feb.98 event got underway; three Plaintiffs filed Federal suit and won a Prelim- inary Injunction against such extreme actions without probable cause (# 98-137-Civ-J-20C).

Help Is Needed Now --

PRESS & MEDIA: Bring Public scrutiny to police atrocities under color of law. Document events & talk to participants at the gathering (directions, pg.2)... also a deterrent to further abuses.

LEGAL COMMUNITY: Crisis Response... Defense & Civil Attorneys are needed in SW Mississippi (Vicksburg/Jackson/McComb/Natchez quadrangle); thoughtful referrals are welcome.

CONTRIBUTIONS: Resources for prep-phone-gas-fees-&-legal costs... fast donations payable to: Arjay Sutton (Mail or wire c/o): 110 E. Cowpen Lake Point Rd., Hawthorne FL 32640(Accounts will be kept on crisis work; Ocala Defense Fund will be ready for the long haul.)

INFORMATION: Please forward this message to others who would be interested and offer help. Any supporting research or documentation will be used wisely.

Thanks for your interest, Do All You Can for First Amendment Rights!

-- Ocala Defense Volunteers

Busts at Dixie Gathering

Homochitto N.F., MS



Forest Supervisor, National Forests of Mississippi, Jackson MS 39269 (601-965-4391)

Homochitto/Bude Ranger District: Gary Bennett, Meadville, MS 39653 (601-384-5876)


Copiah County Sheriff's Office,Hazlehurst MS: (601) 894-3011

Copiah County Court: Circuit Clerk (601-894-1241), District Attorney (601-894-5040)

Hinds County Sheriff's Dept.,Jackson MS: (601) 968-6700


>>Dixie Gathering... Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi

From the North:

Take exit 61 (Hazlehurst) from I-55 to Rte. 28. Go 18 miles to the 547 N. Junction at Allen; from there it's 1.9 miles to an unmarked gravel road on the left. If you pass the brown Homochitto National Forest sign on the right, you've just passed it.the turn off.

From the South:

Take exit 40 (2nd Brookhaven exit) from I-55. Turn RIGHT off the ramp, and follow the signs for Rte 550: left on 51, left again on 550. Go 23 miles to Union Church and turn right on Rte. 28. Pass Pleasant Hill (last chance for supplies.) About 5 miles from Union Church, look for brown Homochitto National Forest sign on left; take the next right, an unmarked gravel road.

About 1/3 mile up, park in the clearing by the lookout tower. WELCOME HOME!


Put your money where your freedom is!

The Ocala Defense Fund

c/o The Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice

PO Box 90035

Gainesville, FL 32607

-260~ The Ocala Defense Fund is a voluntary association, dedicated to raising and allocating funds for the protection of Free Assembly and Expression, in Florida and Nationwide.

~ The Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice is a non-profit organization serving as Fiscal Agent for the ODF -- administering funds and expenditures in accord with strict guidelines.

-260~ Your donations are safe, responsible, and tax-deductible.

Make Checks Payable to FCPJ *for* Ocala Defense Fund... Thank You!