An Open Letter to Rep. Frank Riggs
...by Bernadette Webster
To Rep. Frank Riggs, (sent April 1, 1998)|
Your office was occupied by environmental protesters last fall. You were really upset by it and focused a lot of national attention on the fear experienced by your staff.
We have received a copy of the letter which Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis wrote to you on December 29, 1997, in which he suggested that "an IRS Investigator would be highly cost effective for both the Marijuana Eradication Team and the Humboldt County Drug Task Force" and that "we are willing to provide an agent with office space and will assist the agent in any way possible." Just one month later, on January 28, 1998, the Humboldt County business establishment of Fortuna Ford was hit by a horde of armed, flak-jacketed men who effectively shut the place down for business and terrified the employees by subjecting them all to a rigorous four-hour search as if they were nothing but common criminals. The booty? Some boxes of papers. This for a legitimate business which has been cooperating with the IRS for a year and a half. All that would have been needed to procure these documents was a formal request either by telephone or a person or two -- unarmed -- stopping by the office. Is this what our business community should grow to expect from you? Did you actually help to bring this monstrosity upon this community?
Historically, this is not new to Humboldt County:
Some years back, Sylvandale Nursery was raided in a like manner by a group of men who held the business hostage. It was an action called "Operation Green Merchant," also a part of the Great Drug War which is so hell-bent on removing any shred of personal freedom. The intent of this operation was to shut down any business or publication which might not be thinking government-approved thoughts. Sylvandale was suspected of catering to pot growers and was subsequently punished by being invaded, shut down for business, and having business records and many of its goods taken, including some T-shirts and the film of someone who tried to videotape the event. Though no charges were pressed, the discouraged owner sold off the business so that he would not have to be subjected to such terrifying actions again. When I was growing up, this was not how our honest, hard-working business people were treated...
Another time, teams of Humboldt County Sheriff's officers swarmed into Quite Fantastic, an establishment whose business it was to sell quiet generators to rural residents. Everybody who was there at the time of the invasion was held there under guard for the duration of the day. The cops answered all phone calls. When the proprietor was requested, callers were told that he was not available. The booty? Boxes of papers. Nothing was found amiss with the business records. There was no evidence of undeclared purchases. The DA pressed no charges. Is this how we are to expect our business community to be treated?
Although there were no guns involved at your office, it seems that you were mighty outraged at the fear your secretary experienced. Did you not pound around on the floor of Congress demanding an end to the "terrorism"? Well, is terrorism good for some but not for others? Don't you suppose that the secretary at the car dealership was at least as frightened as your secretary was? Perhaps she was more so, as she was facing overwhelming brute force and potentially heavy-duty firepower for a very extensive period of time. Are we to believe that, given your strong feelings regarding this, you would actually help instigate
Do we agree that all American citizens, especially those hard at work at legitimate jobs, deserve protection from such unreasonable and threatening acts and that it is the duty of our politicians to see to it that everyone in this country should live free from the fear that these events might ever occur in their everyday lives?
We would be pleased to see some evidence that you are hard at work on this issue, seeing to it that protections are being put into place to prevent any more such abuses.
Civil Liberties Monitoring Project