Exercising civil liberties treated as criminal behavior

I was recently subjected to a most unpleasant and disturbing experience at the hands of a U.S. government agency, specifically the Border Patrol in Anacortes as I disembarked from a domestic sailing of the WSF arriving from my home island, Lopez, on the morning of March 30.

At no point did this vessel pass through international waters or leave the USA in any way. An officer approached my car and asked my daughter and me to state our citizenship. When we objected to this as un-Constitutional, I was ordered to pull over and did so. I left my vehicle and walked toward the crowd of agents to remonstrate with them in a civil manner over this intrusion. As I walked towards the group of officers, one of them wearing the name tag K. Olson began taking aggressive action towards me without provocation or warning. He shouted, “Don’t you come at me like that,” and simultaneously deployed his extensible baton. I stood where I was and he repeatedly and aggressively shouted at me to “Back down.” He then proceeded to threaten me with arrest for interfering with a Federal officer, although I was unarmed and did not make any physical or verbal threats. By contrast, he repeatedly brandished his baton and implicitly threatened me with physical violence. In order to calm the situation, and at the behest of my daughter, I swallowed my pride and presented my Fire Department I.D.

Officer Olson also ordered one of his colleagues to, “Run (my) plates,” as though I were a criminal for exercising my civil liberties somehow. When these references came back and it was clear that I am a law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide, we were allowed to go. I cannot emphasize too greatly that at no time did I act in a threatening or illegal manner, and the threat to my person and liberty was utterly unjustified.

My daughter, equally a citizen, but resident abroad just now and innocently visiting her old Dad for the first time in 3+ years, was distraught at this scene, as she knows of the anti-freedom tenor of the present Federal administration and feared that I would be arbitrarily detained, or worse, for nothing more than refusing to answer a question.

The entire episode smacked of the police state. When Federal employees act in way that chills freedom of expression with the flimsy pretext of “security,” it is a cause for the gravest concern on the part of all true patriots.

It is in the gift of the Federal legislature to rein in overbearing and intrusive acts by any Federal agency, and I heartily urge you to write to your Representative and Senators, as I have done, and urge them to please do something to prevent further assaults on, and erosion of freedom in this country.

My daughter and I were both deeply distressed at the experience, and particularly outraged that such egregious behaviour was combined with such dubious procedures. The approach of the Department of Homeland Security to this matter of “citizenship checks needs much closer scrutiny in the Congress, as I find the above-described experience shows that they are not at all clear about the relationship of the state to the citizen.

Any person in this County who knows me will bear witness to my good character, civic involvement, and love of country, surpassed only by my dedication to freedom and its defense from any threat from any quarter whatsoever.

Tom Felber is an inactive qualified teacher of U.S. History and Government, with a special emphasis on the Constitution and the Supreme Court and also of the German language, with a life spent studying Germany, in particular the period between 1933 through 1945. He lives on Lopez Island.