Busted for wearing a peace T-shirt; has this country gone completely insane?
By Mike Ferner
Journal Contributing Writer
Jul 5, 2006, 01:49
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, "Okay, 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
"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.
The officer who did the formalities, Eric Ousley, was
professional in his duties. When I asked him if he was a vet, it turned out he
had been a hospital corpsman in the Navy. We exchanged a couple sea stories. He
uncuffed me early. And he allowed as to how he would only charge me with disorderly
conduct, letting me go on charges of criminal trespass and weapons possession
-- a pocket knife -- which he said would have to be destroyed (something I
rather doubt since it was a nifty Swiss Army knife with not only a bottle
opener, but a tweezers and a toothpick).
After informing me I could either pay the $275 fine on the
citation or appear in court, Ousley escorted me off the premises, warning me if
I returned with "that shirt" on, I'd be arrested and booked into
I'm sure I could go back to officers Adkins' and Ousleys'
fiefdom with a shirt that said, "Nuke all the hajis," or "Show
us your tits," or any number of truly obscene things and no one would
care. Just so it's not "that shirt" again.
And just for the record? I'm not paying the fine. I'll see
Adkins and Ousley and Dubya's Director of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, if he
wants to show up, in United States District Court on the appointed date. And if
there's a Chicago area attorney who'd like to take the case, I'd really like to
sue them -- from Dubya on down. I have to believe that this whole country has
not yet gone insane, just the government. This kind of behavior can't be
tolerated. It must be challenged.
I was at the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center because I'm
participating in the Voices for Creative Nonviolence's 30-day, 320-mile
"Walk for Justice," from Springfield to North Chicago, Illinois, to
reclaim funding for the common good and away from war.
Ferner served as a Navy corpsman during Vietnam War and is obviously a member
For Peace. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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