Houston Community College
Government Tyranny Invading Constitutional Rights?
By Silvia Stagg
On Saturday, April 24, five days after the Branch Davidian Compound went up in flames, approximately 70 people peacefully assembled and protested the Waco fiasco, under the watchful eye of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) a branch of the IRS falling under the domain of the Treasury Department, Department of Public Safety (DPS) and local police of Waco. The protestors were kept far from the site of the Davidian ranch, with the DPS screening each passing vehicle while state and federal officials continued their secret investigations of the remains of Mount Carmel.
Later that day, this writer had the opportunity to interview, via the telephone, ruth Mosher, the mother of Shery Jewel age 43, a Davidian follower who died at the complex. Mosher expressed outrage that she was continually denied access to her daughter by the FBI even after traveling to the compound on March 11 for her daughter's birthday. According to Mosher, Jewel was a teacher, very devout in her bible studies, and had been affiliated with the Davidians for nearly five years. It was approximately one year ago that she made the final move to the Mount Carmel commune. Mosher believes that had the family members been allowed in to visit the Davidians, the Waco tragedy might have been avoided.
Never complaining about David Koresh, Jewel, according to her mother, was very comfortable with the family-like atmosphere at the Davidian ranch and had said that members were free to come and go as they wished. Mosher also denied allegations that children were taught how to commit suicide. She admitted having prior knowledge of Koresh's multiple wives and numerous children, and said that though children were spanked, they were never abused. Mosher also were never abused. Mosher also denied prior knowledge of any guns or munitions. She added that although she does not condone any wrong doings by Koresh, she still holds the government responsible for her daughter's death.
In this writer's opinion, it is not an open and shut case that the Davidians were a fanatical cult group, stockpiling guns and munitions and endangering their community, thus necessitating federal agents to raid their home. The heart of this matter lies in answering the unnerving question of whether or not our federal and state governments are abiding by the Constitution and Bill of Rights as set forth; or have they devised an effective methodology of usurping one's constitutional rights upon their determination that a particular group or individual is a threat to their survival, to their brand of social order? For such a methodology to be effective it mus have at least two components: a) the belief by the government that is is omnipotent and that it has the power to enforce what it deems is just regardless of one's constitutional rights and b) the general public's complacency with such actions.
The government's argument that they believed Koresh to be a fanatical cult leader, possibly endangered children, his followers and his community, seems on the surface a legitimate one for storming the so-called "compound." Though, the right to keep and bear arms is protected by both the 2nd and 9th amendment, our government, nonetheless, frowns upon anyone exercising this right as possibly being a threat to their idea of social order.
The government has proven that it has neither respect for the law nor the lives of innocent people, especially the 17 children and two pregnant women inside the compound on the day of the final attack. Neither did they have the expertise or patience required to diffuse a potentially violent confrontation. Their total disregard for the right of due process or for the lives of the Davidians is a direct result of the unconstitutional drug laws Congress has passed, which allows the search and seizure of all private property, without a person having an involvement with drugs or violating other federal laws. As a result of the government's assault on the constitutional rights of individuals, it is quite obvious that there is virtually nothing protecting the average citizen from immediate governmental excessive use of force, except perhaps the right to keep and bear arms--a right our founding fathers vigorously sought to protect and which has been under constant attack by those in government. The rights of the press were violated as well, when a few journalists, one with the Houston Chronicle, were arrested because they dared to get closer to the compound.
In regards to Koresh, concern for its image and not with substantiating facts, federal officials publicly argued that they were acting on behalf of the public's welfare, setting the stage for what was yet to come. The demonization of Koresh and his followers was a very useful tactic. Once branding someone in this light it was easier to turn public opinion against Koresh and his followers. The illegal use of tanks against U.S. Citizens, British Citizens, innocent men, women and children should have been avoided in order to protect the good faith necessary between the government and the people. Gerald Treece, law professor at the University of Houston and constitutional expert, has suggested that the Waco siege may have violated the Davidians First Amendment rights of freedom of religion as well as their Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure. If persons are suspected of illegal behavior, do they then relinquish their constitutional rights? This writer would argue that they do not.
The American public has become used to being spoon fed information from so-called "reliable" sources and does not stop to think independently. Few question he events that led up to to the federal government marching into Texas: violating Texas sovereignty with ATF and FBI agents and tanks; isolating 112 people who were held up in their home with their children, not allowing them to leave the compound without permission. Governor Richards did not properly discharge her duties as Governor, when she handed over her responsibility to protect the safety of every Texan to the federal government. Surely, the Texas Rangers, or other such local authorities had the jurisdiction to handle this matter providing it was ever necessary.
Koresh and his followers were determined to be guilty ot every crime under the sun without due process. The public has forgotten why this country was founded, as well as the plight of many peoples who have suffered under the iron fist of a totalitarian regime. Holocaust survivors still cannot comprehend how the German population could tolerate their being dragged off to some unknown place, under the guise of a government sanctioned policy. Though, the genocide of the Holocaust has not comparison, whenever a country's citizens give up control over their thought processes, the dictates of their moral conscience, and their lives in general, allowing the "state" to make their decisions for them on a mass level, it historically sets the stage for government totalitarianism.
The ultimate responsibility, therefore, lies with the public, as to whether it will continue to allow the government to take whatever action it deems fit regardless of the price to freedom and the consequences to human life. Our founding fathers knew all to well that absolute power corrupts absolutely; that is why they produced, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, written to protect the individual from the 'state.' It is therefore, periodically necessary to assert our collective will and vigorously voice our protest when government errs, clearly defining government's role and power instead of the other way around.
The Waco tragedy is not the first instance of excessive use of force by the ATF or FBI. There have been many other instances, such as that of a family man in Idaho named Randy Weaver whom they labeled a white supremacist. In August 1992 the ATF and FBI invaded Weaver's home, killing his wife and child in an 111 day siege; all this over a misdemeanor weapons charge. Chris Struble, owner and writer for the Freedom Observer, notes in a recent article on the Waco siege that, "Because of their 'sovereign immunity' these agents cannot be held responsible [to the ordinary citizen] for such conduct in their case." That is they cannot be sued for acting in their official capacity and carrying out the orders of the government.*
Unfortunately, such forceful tactics by this government will only serve to further incite fear and distrust om the population, encouraging increased guns and munitions sales, exacerbating the situation. It is time for the U.S. government to return to its original purpose intended by our founding fathers, that being the servants of the people.
The announced investigation of the federal government's role in the Mount Carmel siege, will most likely end in a white wash, not unlike that of the investigations into the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Jane Reno's recent announcement that given all that she now knows, she would not have handled this matter differently, serves as a chilling reminder that the federal government will probably repeat the excessive use of force in the future.
If Waco continues to remain a carnival side-show for the sale of T-shirts and memorabilia, without significant protest by the public, then the use of tanks and other weapons, traditionally targeted for national defense against outside attack, will become the standard weapons of choice for Americans against their own countrymen.
(My thanks to Chris Struble who provided me with helpful insights from his latest article, 'Nightmare in McLennon County.')
End of Article by Silvia Stagg
*Note- Unknown to me at the time of the writing of this article as per US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Book 'Memoirs of Five Chiefs': The Term 'Sovereign Immunity' comes from 'English Common Law' invoked by the Royal Family limiting the rights of their Royal Subjects, which was stricken down by our US Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Though, still misused in debate or public discourse. The US Supreme Court further recognizes that any Illegal/Erroneous action is NOT an Act of Government. Government is only recognized when it is Lawful/Perfect in its day to day operations and enforcement of our US Constitution.
Silvia Stagg - Silvia Stagg For President Campaign
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