afternoon, drinking a cup of coffee while sitting in the Jesse Brown
V.A. Medical Center on Chicago's south side, a Veterans
Administration cop walked up to me and said, "OK, you've had your 15
minutes, it's time to go."
asked intelligently, not quite sure what he was talking about.
"You can't be
in here protesting," Officer Adkins said, pointing to my Veterans
For Peace shirt.
not protesting, I'm having a cup of coffee," I returned, thinking
that logic would convince Adkins to go back to his earlier duties of
guarding against serious terrorists.
badge open, he said, "No, not with that shirt. You're protesting and
you have to go."
get his drift, I said firmly, "Not before I finish my coffee."
that I leave, but still not quite believing my ears, I tried one
more approach to reason.
I'm a veteran. This is a V.A. facility. I'm sitting here not talking
to anybody, having a cup of coffee. I'm not protesting and you can't
kick me out."
either go or we'll arrest you," Adkins threatened.
just have to arrest me," I said, wondering what strange land I was
now living in.
You know the
rest. Handcuffed, led away to the facility's security office past
people with surprised looks on their faces, read my rights,
searched, and written up.
who did the formalities, Eric Ousley, was professional in his
duties. When I asked him if he was a vet, it turned out he had been
a hospital corpsman in the Navy. We exchanged a couple sea stories.
He uncuffed me early. And he allowed as to how he would only charge
me with disorderly conduct, letting me go on charges of criminal
trespass and weapons possession -- a pocket knife -- which he said
would have to be destroyed (something I rather doubt since it was a
nifty Swiss Army knife with not only a bottle opener, but a tweezers
and a toothpick).
informing me I could either pay the $275 fine on the citation or
appear in court, Ousley escorted me off the premises, warning me if
I returned with "that shirt" on, I'd be arrested and booked into
I'm sure I
could go back to officers Adkins' and Ousleys' fiefdom with a shirt
that said, "Nuke all the hajis," or "Show us your tits," or any
number of truly obscene things and no one would care. Just so it's
not "that shirt" again.
And just for
the record? I'm not paying the fine. I'll see Adkins and Ousley and
Dubya's Director of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, if he wants to
show up, in United States District Court on the appointed date. And
if there's a Chicago area attorney who'd like to take the case, I'd
really like to sue them -- from Dubya on down. I have to believe
that this whole country has not yet gone insane, just the
government. This kind of behavior can't be tolerated. It must be
served as a Navy corpsman during Vietnam and is obviously a
member of Veterans
For Peace. He can be reached at: