By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
After Major and her daughter obeyed the police, moving to the roadside, the Austin group arrived in a caravan of cars, driving up to the roadblock and immediately unloading protest signs and mock coffins. Organizer Lisa Fithian would testify that no one had any intention of getting arrested; their only purpose, even in using the protest paraphernalia, was negotiating with the officers to allow them to pass through town. "We want to send a message to the president," she told the several dozen officers who formed the blockade.
Chief Tidmore, however, would hear none of it. Speaking through a bullhorn, he gave the protesters three minutes to get back in their vehicles and disperse. Most of the crowd headed toward their cars. Regrettably, Major had no car. As she and her daughter walked toward the Peace House, a reporter began to interview her about the events of the day. Two officers then arrested Major and placed her in a van. Three other individuals from Austin who called themselves "legal observers" attempted to get identifying information from the police about Major, and each, in turn, was arrested. Michael Machicek, a longhaired, full-bearded Dallas poet, came late to the scene, carrying pamphlets, according to police, that promoted the legalization of marijuana. He was the last defendant arrested.
Local teenagers waving American and Confederate flags gathered in neighboring yards and were cheering the police and yelling at protesters. At least at first, no one told them to disperse, and "nothing happened to them," argues Harrington, who contends the police were engaged in selective enforcement by allowing what he calls the "counter pro-Bush demonstration" to proceed without a permit. Prosecutor Deaconson contends, however, that even if the chief hadn't ordered the protesters to disperse, they would still be violating the ordinance by parading without a permit. "These [constitutional] issues will be left for another day and smarter people than me," Deaconson says.
That, of course, assumes a guilty verdict and an appeal--neither of which has yet occurred. The trial did not move as quickly as anticipated. Only three prosecution witnesses have testified, and the case has been rescheduled for February 16--ironically enough, on Presidents Day.
Additional reporting from Crawford by Nathan Diebenow