Thursday, August 20, 2009

Arrested Activists Claim False Imprisonment by Army Police in Wisconsin

"...a virtual kidnapping." Attorney Larry Hildes

Four peace activists who were arrested and jailed by Department of the Army Police at Wisconsin's Fort McCoy at an antiwar protest on August 9 are exploring possible legal responses to what they charge is their false imprisonment and various violations of posse comitatus laws that restrict the military from acting as civilian police.

The nonviolent protest commemorated the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Over 50 participants of the "Walk for Peace," a three day demonstration march, ended their march at the gates of Fort McCoy, a military training center which deploys National Guard units to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine activists who carried their protest onto the base received citations for a federal petty offense that required them to appear in court at a later date. Normally the cited person is immediately released pending that later court appearance. But in this case, military authorities released only five of the nine and continued to detain four, telling them that they would be jailed because they had each been apprehended at previous protests at the Fort.

U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil told Wisconsin Public Radio that a glitch in communications between his office and military police at the base led to the four's jailing.

Representatives of Fort McCoy told the four prisoners, media, and public inquirers that the four would be held at the base until they were turned over to United States Marshals for transport to the Dane County Jail in Madison, WI. However, the four were instead held on the base for over three hours before being chained, loaded in a van by Fort McCoy police, and driven seventy miles to the Dane County Jail where they were incarcerated as "federal holds." The US Marshals' office in Madison claimed no knowledge of the four and had no record of their detention.

The four were released the next afternoon, 24 hours after being apprehended by Fort McCoy Army police. They never appeared before a judge. Jail guards told them that "Fort McCoy wired that they were lifting their hold" on the prisoners.

The incident raises many disturbing issues, according to the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild attorney Larry Hildes of Bellingham, Washington. He says the bizarre events in Wisconsin constitute a "virtual kidnapping." Hildes represents other activists around the country regarding a growing number of alleged violations of the Posse Comitatus Act. He says the Dane County Sheriff's Department "should have been asking a lot of questions" before accepting the prisoners delivered by Army police.

Joy First, co-convener of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance and one of the four, stated: "...the officials at Fort McCoy acted as judge and jury as they illegally detained us and took us to Madison to be held overnight in the Dane County Jail."

Another of the four, Bonnie Urfer of Nukewatch, sees parallels between Fort McCoy police treatment of the protestors and military policy regarding detainees abroad: "The four of us received just a small taste of what it feels like to be rounded up and punished by a military out of control and operating outside the law... In the U.S., illegal military detention should not be happening for any amount of time at all."

"What the US Attorney calls a ‘glitch in communications' is in reality a crime and a part of a larger pattern of illegal government activity that needs to be resisted on many levels," says Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. "Wars of aggression and illegal occupations not only take the lives of civilians and soldiers without distinction, they also inevitably erode civil liberties and freedoms here at home."

More acts of nonviolent protest are being planned at Fort McCoy until all US troops are brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan, say the activists in information they provided.


One Fly said...

Bottom line is that the ones with the guns at any level - if they want you there's not much you can do. If you're done wrong there's not much that can be done about that either and that sucks - really sucks.

okjimm said...

wowsers.... that's right outside of my home town. I remember being stopped for speeding on base once. The MPS threw me in a cage for three hours, said that would 'slow me down' and let me go.

Border Explorer said...

One Fly: Yup!

Jimm: WOWSERS! Sounds like these protesters got more of the treatment you (and how many others?) endured. What an abuse of power!! Thanks for sharing that experience here on this post, Buddy.

Spadoman said...

This outrageous "holding" was against the law, but what can you do about it while it's happening? Absolutely nothing.
At Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas, where they teach South American soldiers how to kill and other "skills" they need to pull off coups, you are arrested when trespassing, then issued your citation and released. You appear in court and get sentenced, usually 2 months first offense, then 4 months second, etc. I know many who decided to cross the fence and get arrested.
The Ft. McCoy bunch were harrassed and illegally detained, but they'll be busy defending themselves for what they were charged with and not have a chance to bring charges for false imprisonment for quite some time, not to mention the money for attorneys, (unless some pro bono work is offered)
The people arrested at the RNC are still awaiting trial, one year after arrest, but were released after charges were filed.

Peace above all.