The First Amendment to the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
July 4th is the day that we are supposed to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence from tyranny at the hands of the King of England. That document, along with the Federalist Papers and the US Constitution are the foundational documents of this Nation. The US Constitution is rapidly becoming void where prohibited by law, and often treated as void when it isn’t actively prohibited. It simply isn’t being upheld by many of those who take oaths to do exactly that.
As a matter of fact, it was thoroughly trashed by the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Healthcare Act just prior to being soundly violated by both Sheriff’s Deputies and Park Rangers at the Army Corps of Engineer (ACE) run Lake Wapapello in Missouri’s 8th Congressional District. It is very likely that this same type of challenger candidate suppression is taking place all across the country, and it is past time that the American people understand the depth of the hijacking of our political processes.
A little background
Southern Missouri has had the same Congressional Representative, Jo Ann Emerson, for almost 16 years. Emerson was born in Washington DC, grew up to be a lobbyist and then married the late Missouri 8th District Congressman Bill Emerson. When he passed away she ran for his seat, and she has held onto Emerson’s name and Congressional seat ever since. This is a very conservative district, and the fact that Emerson has remarried Ron Gladney, a Democrat and prior Union lobbyist, had not been common knowledge.
Then, two years ago, she was challenged by Bob Parker of Raymondville, Missouri, and for the very first time, an upstart challenger with a shoestring budget, received 35% of the vote in the 2010 Republican primary, largely due to exposing Emerson’s actual voting record during her tenure. After the Primary, Parker continued about his business as a rancher, realtor, and property rights advocate, and began another serious run for the seat in early 2012.
In the 2010 election, Parker set the foundation for his growing posse of grass roots supporters, dubbed “Parker’s Rangers”. The 2012 election had tons of new supporters come on board and take it upon themselves to hit the streets and public events in this hot summer spreading the word that there is a real choice for conservatives in the Republican Primary on August 7th. Their mission is to visit as many events as possible, sometimes several in one day, displaying large “Parker for Congress” signs in their pick up trucks, handing out information if allowed, and visiting with their fellow citizens about the upcoming primary. Simply put, they are intent upon creating visibility in the only way open to those who are not the favored choice of the now traditional political machine.
Mission Not Allowable
Several of the Parker Rangers found their mission took them to Lake Wapapello for the Annual 4th of July Fireworks display, and this is where they ran into Park Rangers, who denied them the ability to exercise their right to peaceably assemble and show their support for Parker at this large public event.
On June 30th, which we all know is not Independence Day, but simply the day the Army Corps of Engineers chose to celebrate our Nation’s independence, Eldon Wright and six other Parker Rangers pulled into the public parking lot at the Eagle Point Recreational Area at Lake Wapapello. Eldon says that not long after they’d parked their trucks, and snapped a few pictures, Park Ranger Becky Hays pulled up and told them they had to leave because there “is no politicking allowed” on Federal land.
Mr. Wright informed Hays that this was a violation of their Rights and went to the Bill Emerson Memorial Visitors Center to see if he could speak with someone higher in the Chain of Command. That was fruitless and he retuned to the parking lot for continued conversation with Becky Hays, who was now joined by two Sheriff’s Deputies and two other ACE Park Rangers.
The Park Rangers and Deputies initially insisted that the Parker Rangers leave the event. The authorities then requested that the Parker supporters show their identification. One supporter had the temerity to ask, “Am I being detained?” An official denied that they were being detained, and that particular supporter said, “Since I’m not being detained, I’m leaving.” The official then replied, “Well, you are detained now.”
Mr. Wright stated that he requested the identification and badge numbers of the officials, but they ignored his request. He later found the name of one of the Deputies from Butler County, which has a contract to assist the park when they ask for help, and was able to learn the names of three of the officials actively engaged in preventing the Parker supporters from displaying their signs in the public parking lot. They are Butler County Deputies Frank Castille and Tim Darnell and Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger Becky Hays.
The officials ran checks on the supporter’s identification. Not surprisingly, the checks came up clean. The ACE Park Rangers also took photographs of all the vehicle’s plates of the Parker supporters and sent the one supporter who was not a driver away from the rest.
Regrettably, the Parker supporters failed to take pictures of their exchange with the authorities. The supporter with the camera was understandably just shocked by being threatened with arrest over something so essential as our basic right to free speech.
When the Parker supporters were told they would have to leave, Eldon pointedly asked Ms. Hays on who was responsible for issuing the order to refuse access to those with campaign signs on their vehicles. Mr. Wright said, “She then went over to her car and made a call on her phone, then came back and said that it was against the law to display candidate signs on federal property. She never did give any of us the statute or regulation number that she claimed we were violating.” They also were never told who gave the order to enforce this regulation against freedom of speech at an Independence Day Celebration.
To the Parker Rangers, it seemed very inconsistent. Just a few weeks prior to the Independence Day Celebration at Lake Wapapello, there had been a Wayne County Republican Committee Candidate Forum at the lake, and a myriad of signs were displayed and large amounts of literature changed hands at that event.
During conversation with the ACE Park Rangers and the Deputies, the threat of a fine was communicated as well. One of the officials pointed to another pick up in the parking lot with a sign promoting Democratic Candidate for Judge, Steven Mitchell in the truck bed and said, “We couldn’t find the driver of that truck, but he has a ticket waiting for him.” You can click on this link for the pdf of the ticket, and then this link for the sheet that has the regulation circled that is cited as their authority to prevent campaign signs. Legal action is likely in process on this issue.
Interestingly, after threatening the Parker Rangers with arrest, demanding their identification papers, photographing their vehicles and generally intimidating them, the Park officials then said that they could all stay at the event; but there was a catch. Mr. Wright explained, “They said we could stay, IF we parked our trucks inside this grove of trees where no one could see them.” None of the Parker supporters were thrilled with this offer. Eldon said, “ Finally, we just told them no. I told them we will leave, but we will leave under protest; you are violating our Constitutional rights, and we will leave under protest.”
Since Bob Parker has been actively engaged in protecting private property rights for more than a decade there is some basis for a suspicion that was voiced that the Parker Rangers were being specifically targeted by ACE. Parker isn’t often kind to the Army Corps of Engineers when they interfere with private property use. You can read a very descriptive article on the intentional breach of the Bird’s Point Levee here and see why this may be a legitimate concern for Parker supporters. This is an issue that may come more to the fore as events unfold regarding the actions of the ACE Rangers at Lake Wapapello on June 30th.
Full Speed Ahead
These same Parker Rangers joined other Parker supporters and continued to attend numerous Independence Day Parades and celebrations all across the largest Congressional District in Missouri on the 4th of July. Despite being shut down at one of the largest celebrations, they are determined to keep spreading their message of true independence throughout the District. Like lovers of liberty across the nation, they are tired of non-representative representatives. Politics as usual is simply not an option any longer.
There is a very high probability that legal action will be lodged against both the Deputies, who reportedly said, “We’re just doing what they tell us to do” and the ACE Park Rangers involved in this event.
Eldon Wright told one of the Deputies, “The fact of the matter is you’ve committed a Federal level criminal act, and I am not going to quit on this.”
Elected Representatives all over the nation, at every level of government, are receiving the same message, “We are the People, and We are not going to quit.”