Texas SWAT Raids Organic Farm Over Rumors

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Micah Naziri

Everything is bigger in Texas… Even when it comes to violating your civil rights apparently.

Radley Balko, author of the book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, writes that a small organic farm in Arlington, Texas, was recently the target of a massive police action.

This raid last week included aerial surveillance, and a 10-hour search, all while the farmers faced the barrels of SWAT M4 machine guns and MP5 submachine guns.

Members of the local police raiding party had a search warrant for marijuana plants, which they failed to find at the Garden of Eden farm. But farm owners and residents who live on the property told a Dallas-Ft. Worth NBC station that the real reason for the law enforcement exercise appears to have been code enforcement. The police seized “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … native grasses and sunflowers,” after holding residents inside at gunpoint for at least a half-hour, property owner Shellie Smith said in a statement. The raid lasted about 10 hours, she said.

According to Balko, “local authorities had cited the Garden of Eden in recent weeks for code violations,” including the ever-dubious claim of “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street,” as well as the classic “couch and piano in the yard.” These egregious violations were nothing compared to the “chopped wood that was not properly stacked,” and the violation borne of “a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house.”

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Shellie Smith’s statement explained that the police refused to produce a warrant for a full two hours. This was well after the raid began. When farmers asked to see their badge numbers, “officers shielded their name tags so they couldn’t be identified.”

In spite of the dastardly crimes of having unstacked wood and tall grass, according to ABC affiliate WFAA, Quinn Eaker was the only resident on the property who was arrested. The charge: outstanding traffic violations.

So this is what it’s come to?

The city of Arlington said that the SWAT raid came after “the Arlington Police Department received a number of complaints that the same property owner was cultivating marijuana plants on the premises.” And yet the police admit that, “No cultivated marijuana plants were located on the premises.”

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Balko explains that this is part of a broader trend of militarized SWAT raids for the most trivial of infractions, or simply on the suspicion of wrong-doing.

The raid on the Garden of Eden farm appears to be the latest example of police departments using SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics to enforce less serious crimes. A Fox television affiliate reported this week, for example, that police in St. Louis County, Mo., brought out the SWAT team to serve an administrative warrant. The report went on to explain that all felony warrants are served with a SWAT team, regardless whether the crime being alleged involves violence… Other raids have been conducted on food co-ops and Amish farms suspected of selling unpasteurized milk products. The federal government has for years been conducting raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized them, even though the businesses operate openly and are unlikely to pose any threat to the safety of federal enforcers.

What can we do? First and foremost, we have to get educated. Articles like this and Radley Balko’s book are good places to start. Beyond that, we have to educate others, our families, friends, and/or neighbors. Each one, teach one.

SPREAD THE WORD! NOTHING WILL CHANGE UNTIL WE CHANGE IT!

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