Saturday, July 5, 2008

St Johns County Sherriff threatens peace group

Video - Breaking News Videos from

St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice has been encountering problems with the
St. Johns County Sheriff's Department in the recent past. I have attached a letter
that our group has sent along with photos of t-shirts being distributed by the
Sheriff (see t shirts in the video link above).

30 June 2008

Dear Sheriff Shoar,

As citizens of St. Johns County and members of St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, and Grandparents for Peace, numbering over 500 strong, we are very concerned and dismayed about the "sniper" t-shirts that you recently distributed at a veterans' meeting. The shirts have a silhouette of a sniper on the front, and on the back the following script: "If you can't stand behind o ur troops, do us all a favor and stand in front of them." These shirts appear to advocate violence (i.e., sniper fire) on anyone who disagrees with the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East (currently about 70% of the US population).

We understand that you were previously contacted about these shirts on Wednesday, June 18th, by Mr. Ed Slavin. He asked you a number of questions in his e-mail, none of which were actually answered in your response to him on June 19th.

In your reply to Mr. Slavin you stated that you "chuckled" when you read the script on the shirts and also that you found the shirts "amusing." The fact that you, the County's top law enforcement officer who took an oath "to serve and protect", found the prospect of sniper fire on civilians who disagree with the war in Iraq to be "amusing" and worthy of a "chuckle" is, frankly, appalling, particularly for a person in your position. The phrase "do us all a favor" (emphasis added) in particular implies that you support the killing/maiming of anyone who disagrees with the war in Iraq.

The following is a list of the options we are considering in response to your distribution of the shirt:

1) We would like to receive a written, public apology and an explanation for the shirts and why you found them to be worthy of distribution

2) An immediate recall of all shirts distributed by you and an injunction against any further distribution of the shirts

3) We would also like to have a full accounting of the cost of these shirts, and the name and position of the person who gave them to you

4) Notifying the FBI of an elected, law enforcement official who is promoting the use of violence against civilians. Section 802 of the Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as:
(5) the term ‘domestic terrorism’ means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

You may think that these shirts are just a joke. However, to those of us who speak out publicly, who put our faces, bodies, and reputations on the line to protest the illegal, unjust war in Iraq, these shirts suggest that the Sheriff of St. Johns County advocates violence against peaceful, unarmed civilians exercising their constitutional right to free speech. This is completely unacceptable. Given the culture of violence and the suppression of constitutional rights our society is already suffering, the last thing we need is this kind of message coming from our County Sheriff.

We look forward to your response.


Members of St. Augustine People for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, and Grandparents for Peace

The issue in St Johns County is a perfect example of the clash between constructive patriotism and Symbolic patriotism referred to in the article posted below this one. But this exchange between the peace groups and the sheriff's office illuminates another dimension of the differences between these two groups. The threat of violence by some but not all symbolic patriots towards their opponents is an additional dark aspect of this conflict. For another examples look at the history of the Gathering of Eagles, Symbolic Patriots, who the day after they beat the antiwar father of a dead Marine in the streets of Washington DC were feted on the lawn of the White House with barbecue and photos with the president.
Mary Bahr

No comments: