Missisipi Update

Greetings Family....

I've just returned from Mississippi (aka MissinHippie). Here's the short story with the longer to come when I have more time to do it.

Five individuals filed a Complaint in the US District Court in Jackson, MS on Tuesday, March 24, 1998 against the Forest Service, the US Marshals Service, and the Sheriff of Copiah County against roadblocks and other law enforcement harassment at the Mississippi gathering. They included a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, ex parte (meaning without hearing from the other side), and attached the Order from Florida last month.

The case landed in Judge Tom S. Lee's court. Unfortunately, Judge Lee was hearing cases in another court or was otherwise unavailable or unwilling to rule on the Motion without a hearing. It was also too late for him to call a hearing before the order would go moot (many Federal Judges refuse to hear cases ex parte as a rule and apparently Judge Lee is one of them).

The Plaintiffs tried to cut a deal with the US Attorney to stipulate to Florida in absence of a TRO. The US Attorney assigned to defend the Forest Service and the Marshals Service was unable to reach the parties in time and assured the Plaintiffs that officers would follow the law (which, after all, is all the Florida order ensures).

I returned to the gathering site at about 5pm expecting to see the usual roadblock boogie and was shocked and amazed when it wasn't there. Then I found out that Copiah County had released all but 3 of the 30 or so prisoners that afternoon (there was a kangaroo court involved, so don't get too excited).

At about 6:30pm, a roadblock went up, but it was nothing like the week before. It consisted of two Forest Service LEO cars and two Copiah County Sheriff's cars. Folks who drove through it were asked for driver's license, registration, and whether they had any beer (beer is illegal in that part of Copiah County, but not liquor and wine....go figure....). There were no dogs and no arrests made at the roadblock all weekend and no further civil rights abuses that we are aware of at this time.

So, we were unable to get the piece of paper, but we did get:

  1. the roadblock reduced to a true "safety checkpoint"
  2. an internal investigation started by the Forest Service Region 8 office (they sent an officer to find out what happened...we'll see....
  3. all prisoners released (except Little Hawk--DUI, Squirrel--interfering with an officer, and a brother named Eric, who had warrants).
The next steps:
  1. The Plaintiffs intend to file an Amended Complaint, dropping the US Marshals and making a few needed changes. It will be available here as soon as it is served on the Defendants.
  2. Several individuals have already initiated the preliminary steps to begin a federal investigation into criminal charges against specific individual law enforcement officers and intend to file them.
  3. Folks who went to jail are getting another suit together against abuses while incarcerated in the Copiah County jail. Many were denied a phone call for four days and subjected to multiple violations of due process.
  4. The Plaintiffs intend to proceed cautiously with the suit in court and decide at a later date what needs to be done.
I'd like to personally thank folks who said they'd send donations along and actually did so (you know who you are). If you all would like an accounting of how your donations were spent, I'd be happy to send it along. But we did this mostly with our own cash. That's okay....we like our freedom and can't stand to see stuff like this happening to our kids.

I'd also like to send out a big HO! to Freddie S., who held my hand all the way through this thing.

In Loving Service
The Good Folks at Pronoid Central
and arjay 

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
Make Check Payable to FCPJ *for* Ocala Defense Fund 

This message brought to you by the good folks at Pronoid Central. Because we're absolutely, positively *convinced* that you are out to help us.