Police Seize Blackberry Bushes to Ensure Our Safety

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Radley Balko, author of the newly popular book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, is highlighting yet another absurd abuse of police power. In Balko’s latest Huffington Post piece, he explains how a small organic farm in Arlington, Texas was the target of a 10-hour SWAT raid, accompanied by aerial surveillance, all based upon the suspicion of the presence of marijuana.

The small farm, known as the Garden of Eden farm, has been cited for grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, missing siding from the house, and a “generally unclean premises.”

According to the Garden of Eden’s website, “The community responded by trimming the bushes growing into the road immediately because it was easy to see how that was an issue that could affect others and therefore was a perfectly reasonable request. The other issues cited are seen by the community members as a private matter of preference, since it is taking place entirely within the confines of their private land and has no effect on anyone.”
*Author’s Note: bolding is my own.

From the beginning of the SWAT raid, all eight adults in the house were handcuffed and guarded by heavily armed personnel. The adults were unarmed. Both a 22-month old child and 2-week old baby were separated from their mothers during the raid. Shellie Smith, property owner, said a warrant was not shown until two hours into the raid and that officers shielded their name tags.

In the end, only one adult was arrested… for outstanding traffic violations. Police did, however, seize “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants, native grasses and sunflowers.”

This raid was not the beginning of this organic farm’s problems; it was the culmination of months of asinine citing and harassment. Even if the Garden of Eden had been growing marijuana, this should not be standard practice. Non-violent criminals have the right to be treated non-violently in return.

Mr. Radley Balko’s book title is right on point. Our police force is nearly completely militarized and, frankly, that is terrifying. It’s time to put a stop to the incessant and ever growing abuse of police power.