January 17, 2002
Dear Sir/Madam (and other addressees):
I was involved in an unusual incident in the Hanley Federal Building yesterday, Jan 16th. I was quietly walking in the hall outside the offices of Congressman Walsh. A Federal Protective Service officer approached me and told me I must stop, that my conduct was not allowed by 'building rules' and he ordered me to follow him to their downstairs office. I thought I would be charged with an offense.
There was NO interference with building operation, access or traffic flow. Last year, after all Federal and State charges of trespass, etc… were dismissed, it was understood that such peaceful action in an attempt to petition government was protected. Earlier in the week, on Monday, I had been allowed to proceed with no interference and walk on the 8th floor for two hours outside the offices of Senator Schumer.
After we got down to his office I was normally used to the routine of being searched and told to sit for a while until the Syracuse PD showed up. This time I sat down and after he had a phone conference I was told I was free to leave the building, but could not go upstairs. I told him I did not want to leave the building and wished to return to where I had been. He said I was free to leave the building, but could not go upstairs -- I continued to wait. After about an hour I realized nothing was happening. I finally asked the officer what they planned on doing -- he said nothing right now, you can leave anytime, but we'll eventually remove you from the building. At that point I figured they might just wait till the building closed, then ask me out and lock the door.... I decided to leave.
I feel this may be a misuse of police power and my willingness to follow "orders." I have always cooperated with the law enforcement authorities and not resisted arrest in any way. But this new "approach" of keeping me contained in one room of the building, without bringing any charges against me, and limiting my ability to peacefully petition government is a great concern. It would appear that an "order" for that purpose is not lawful and should not be obeyed by a member of the public.
This incident, so closely following an arrest from January 8th, where a Syracuse Police Officer clearly made false statements in an arrest report increases the concerns that any official response is justified as long as it will stop my actions.
PLEASE understand that I am just one parent of many who feel they have been unjustly separated from an equal relationship with their children. The immediate reason for my conduct is the simple failure of both Senator Schumer and Senator Clinton to make any type of response to our requests for reform. Probably one of the most basic concepts in our government and "How a Bill becomes a Law" is that you can talk to your Member of Congress, explain your feelings, and then get their response and guidance to your proposed legislation - that simply has not happened.
We certainly do not feel that we are "crackpots" or a fringe group. Nor are we a well funded group with money for Civil Rights lawyers to plead our case or defend us against questionable actions by authorities. We are Mothers and Fathers seeking to restore our most basic right to nurture and raise our own children. In a Nation concerned with "Family Values' - we hope this will become a popular cause. The lack of response from our local Members of Congress has come as a surprise and has brought forth this chain of local events.
My plan is to return to the building next Tuesday, in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, and his method of NonViolent Action. I would hope that I will be allowed to proceed with no disturbance - but if action must be taken, that I am charged with a specific violation of the law.
I would appreciate your prompt action in this matter and also your understanding as these events continue to unfold.
John Murtari http://www.AKidsRight.Org/
CC: City Judge Rosenthal