Cops Steal Waco Protest Signs

April 17, 1995, from Ian Goddard:

At an ongoing Waco protest across from the White House in Washington, D.C., Park Police ran off with the signs and personal belongings of members of the Committee for Waco Justice and Washington Area Libertarian Alliance. The police claimed the property was "abandoned" despite the fact that its owner claimed and demanded its return even as the police were running away with it.

As a demonstrator placed a load of signs, a backpack and a bag of supplies at the protest site and went off to get another load, the Park Police waited for just the right moment to swept in and run off with the goods. When the demonstrator was a good fifty yards away the police swept in and ran off with the property. The major display props were not stolen.

A demonstrator, Ian Goddard, said, "I just arrived on the scene -- the sight of the theft -- when I saw two Park Police hastily grab a load of our signs and literally run off with them. I ran as fast as I could to catch up with them. I yelled 'Stop! That's my art work.' The cop said, 'go away.' I informed them that this was our property. They said it was abandoned property. I said it is mine and I claim it. They said that because I was not within 3 feet of it at the time they collected it, it is forfeit. This regulation does apply to Lafayette Park, but not the Ellipse. Of course I could not show them the regulations because they were in the back pack they locked in the cruiser."

Mr. Goddard went on to say, "As the officers thew the stolen goods into their cruiser I said to them, 'I thought you guys were supposed to protect property.' The cop, looking stunned that a citizen would stand his ground, said, 'I do protect property, I protect my cruiser.' The main cop actually said I was harassing him! He then demanded to see my papers. We also got his name and number."

The Park Police said that the property could be claimed at the Haynes Point station. Six hours later we went there and they said they have never seen it but that "abandoned property is destroyed." It remains to be seen if this holds true, but it doesn't look good.

Government theft and destruction of protest signs is necessarily a violation of free speech. The event at the Ellipse offers us an ugly and even embarrassing glimpse of a government so desperate to destroy the truth it fears, that it will resort to shameless petty larceny.

Source: Libernet Digest V103 #12.