At the time of this writing my friend Na Poe is missing. He was arrested Saturday afternoon at Independence Mall by Rangers of the National Park Service at the crescendo of ‘Smokedown Prohibition V,’ latest in series of protests organized by Poe and the Panic Hour with PhillyNORML which have as their prime mode of action openly smoking pot en masse (firing up, when else, at 4:20). He can be presumed to be in Federal custody, likely in the FDC Philadelphia at 700 Arch Street, though he is not listed on the facility’s searchable database of inmates – while Adam Kokesh, arrested moments prior within a few feet, could be found in the BOP’s records as of yesterday afternoon. A total of 7 were arrested, 5 of whom I understand were either cited and immediately released or have been by now of their own recognizance. It should be noted that the overwhelmingly typical consequence of pot possession on Park Service property is a summons issued on the scene and a fine of approximately $200.
In what will now be three pieces highly critical of US Park Rangers (I would not be surprised if it was the seminal body of journalism on the subject, also see Park Rangers Decide to Crack Down on Smokedown: ‘Flash Mob’ Is Questioned )it has never truly been my intention to portray Independence Mall’s or any other Rangers as some Gestapo wantonly desecrating our treasured landmarks in a willful, too-perfectly ironic betrayal of the principles enshrined on that very ground by our forefathers. I did fully intend to take advantage of the illustrative power of the setting to provide an undertone of that narrative of its own merit. The image of Ranger Bob handcuffing idealistic kids in front of the Liberty Bell comes across as satire that might often be funny were it indeed fiction.
While in my experience they have too frequently been party to deeply disturbing practices of law enforcement in response to non-violent speech and assembly, I do not believe that in fact any Park Ranger educates herself for and enters the field on the chance of an assignment where they can occasionally work out their sundry and very specific political affinities on the flesh of the ideological opposition. It has always been and will continue to be my assumption that the choice of the Park Service as a career is likely to indicate deep sensitivities and a strong sense of personal responsibility, which only serves to give these unnecessary, already tragic encounter a distinct sheen of the absurd. I probably excuse the actual Rangers on the scene too liberally, I simply cannot help feeling some pity for almost everyone who found themselves presented with the terms of Saturday afternoon’s conflict.
Before all the facts are in and I take place in the larger conversation about chilled speech, the Drug War, etc that circumstances call for, I want to make public some important inferences that can be made about the tactical motives of the Park Service’s tack and in what ways they were by a certain metric successful
Rangers targeted two high profile actors for initial arrest: Na Poe, who was MC’ing the event and pivotal in its formation and organization, and Adam Kokesh, prominent Libertarian Activist who has most recently garnered attention for planning a mass, ‘open carry’ march in Washington DC to protest increased firearm regulation. In so doing, they effectively ended the primary action (the group did not disperse, no dispersal order was in fact given): attention was diverted to the theatrical, aggressive apprehension and the Rangers who perpetrated it.
Further, they have successfully placed a major obstacle in the way of efforts to reorganize for another Smokedown. The Rangers at Independence Mall made a clear case for expecting their willingness to crack down on event-goers, and this intimidation factor will likely be enough to discourage a great number of less-than-zealous potential attendees. They have made it effectively impossible for Poe or Mr. Kokesh to attend a sequel anytime soon, as they will at the very best be out on Federal bond which would be immediately revoked upon a subsequent arrest and result in possible incarceration all the way through their cases eventual adjudication.
One has to wonder what DC authorities owe the Rangers for clipping Kokesh’s wings regarding the DC action as well.
I want to lastly note that this operation was undertaken in close cooperation with and included obvious intelligence contributions from the Philly PD. Observing the video of Poe’s arrest, make note of the large older gentleman in the white hat who is at the center of the action. This is Captain Steven Glenn, the very likable, incredibly sharp head of the Civil Affairs unit, with whom I find myself often talking at length despite all my best notions of opsec. Captain Glenn is clearly positioned to ID important parties and advising the Park Service authorities in real time.
At this moment no one outside of the jail has yet to speak with Poe, though I have recently been informed that the public defender expects him to make an initial appearance today. I will report all news, and ask personally for your attention in this matter.
Both Kokesh and Poe appeared in court today. They were both provisionally represented by the public defender – Felicia Sarner for Kokesh was present in court, while Edward Borden did not appear for Poe (he very likely had not yet been informed of the appointment). A detention hearing regarding their continued incarceration is scheduled for Thursday, where the prosecution appears poised to argue that they remain in custody for the foreseeable future.
Here’s the docket/criminal complaint, USA v Adam Kokesh. The charges for Poe are identical, however, he is still not even listed on the BOP site.