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    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Homeland Security Agents Obstruct School Bus Loading Zone, Attack Jacksonville, Fla. Teacher's Assistant

    It was a typical school day at Englewood Elementary in Jacksonville, Florida. The children were loading the buses, and everything seemed to be a normal. But it was not. This day, there was "a late model car obstructing the school bus loading zone."(1) Now I'm not exactly sure of the exact circumstances in this case, but the Florida Statutes state that other than in exceptional circumstances, "no person shall [s]tand or park a vehicle, whether occupied or not, except momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger or passengers [i]n front of a public or private driveway."(2) There may be also more specific laws governing school zones, but the general statute is enough for anyone to assume that the late model car in question was illegally parked.

    Leander Pickett, a teacher's assistant, was directing bus traffic that afternoon.(3) When Mr. Pickett noticed the car parked in the bus loading zone, he correctly assumed that the car had no permission to be there and that it was part of his job to ask it to leave. And that's exactly what Mr. Pickett did:
    "I walked up to him and said, 'Sir, you need to move.' That's when he said 'I'm a police officer. I'm with Homeland Security ... I'll move it when I want to.' That's when he started grabbing me on my arm," Pickett said.(4)

    After Mr. Pickett asked the as yet unidentified agents -- employees of Michael Chertoff(5) -- to leave, they threw him "face-down onto the hood of the car, handcuffed [him], and held [him] for more than a half-hour."(6)

    According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the officers had pulled into the school driveway (obstructing it in violation of the Florida Statutes) "to look at a map."(7) And as for the unidentified officers' treatment of Mr. Pickett, DHS asserts that he "was antagonizing" them.(8)

    That is an awfully bold statement for Michael Chertoff to authorize DHS to make. Especially given the fact that the eyewitnesses to the event can corroborate Mr. Pickett's version of events:
    "Mr. Pickett asked the guy blocking the bus loading zone to move, and the guy told him he would move his car when he got ready to move it," said Englewood coach Alton Jackson.

    "At that point I intervened and I went up to the gentleman and said, 'Mr. Pickett is an employee here,' and they said that didn't matter," said Englewood media specialist, Terri Dreisonstok.

    "'We're with Homeland Security,' and on and on they went, and pretty soon, before you know it, he's handcuffed and slammed against a car," [Principal] Brinson said.(9)

    By the time Englewood Principal Gail Brinson arrived on the scene, Mr. Pickett was already in handcuffs and being yelled at by the DHS agents.(10) When she asked what Mr. Pickett had done to deserve the treatment the DHS agents were giving him, one of them claimed that "he had been 'abusive, aggressive, and belligerent,' but wouldn't say what else he had done to deserve being handcuffed. They just insisted over and over that it was 'Homeland Security business.'"(11)

    Principal Brinson then did what any responsible citizen should do when confronted by law enforcement officers. She asked for their "names and badge numbers, but the agents refused to provide them."(12) Not only did they refuse, but, according to the principal's statements, these DHS agents pronounced that they did not have to give her anything, and proclaimed that they were "bigger than the FBI."(13) After one half hour had elapsed, they finally released Mr. Pickett without charging him with anything.(14)

    This whole situation does not seem right to me. Two DHS agents, who are employees of Michael Chertoff, and whose identities are ultimately being withheld by Michael Chertoff, parked their car illegally. When a proper authority asked them to move their car, they assaulted him, verbally abused him, and drove off after failing to comply with a lawful request that they identify themselves.

    These men are clearly malefactors and need to be brought to trial under the laws of Florida on charges of assault and battery.


    (1) William Norman Grigg. "Abusing Homeland Authority (Excerpt)," The New American, 2006 May 15, para. 2,
    (2) Florida Statutes 316.1945 (1)(b).
    (3) Staff Writers. "Local Teacher's Run-In With Homeland Security Creates Insecurities,", 2006 April 05, paras. 2 & 6,
    (4), para. 7.
    (5) On February 15, 2005 Michael Chertoff was sworn in as the second Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. (Web Site: Department of Homeland Security, DHS Organization, Leadership,, last accessed on 2006 September 23.
    (6) Grigg, para. 3.
    (7), para. 9.
    (8) Ibid. para. 10.
    (9) Ibid. paras. 12-14.
    (10) Grigg, paras. 6-7.
    (11) Ibid. para. 7
    (12) Ibid. para. 8.
    (13) Ibid. para. 9.
    (14) Ibid.

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