Our Belo-bound (and other downtown day-dwelling) readers are probably familiar with the Women in Black, the group of ladies (wearing guess what color) protesting war, evil and other crappy stuff outside the Federal Building at 207 Houston Street. They're not exactly formidable by numbers--sometimes just two or three show up--but they are persistent, having protested every Thursday for more than a year.
On May 4th, just two WIB showed up, fearless sorta-leader Laray Polk and Trish Major, wearing their usual gear and carrying the usual signage and in their usual place, which is off to the side of the building's entrance. What was unusual was the fact that, according to two Department of Homeland Security officers, the two women managed to block the entire entrance, disrupting traffic going in and out of the place. Polk and Major were given tickets and fined $75 for "obstructing the entrance of the Federal Building," though they both contend they were standing well to the side of the entrance and minding their own anti-war business. Besides, how do two thoroughly non-obese women manage to block several feet of entrance space? The answer after the jump. --Andrea Grimes
Polk and Major contested their ticket all the way to the U.S. Northern District and the mildly maligned Judge Paul Stickney (recipient of a pesky DWI conviction last year.) At yesterday's hearing, much to Polk's relief--and surprise--she and Major were found innocent of their crime in Dallas--"such a conservative city," as Polk puts it.
Polk says the ticketing officers were unable to get their stories straight, disagreeing on when the WIB had been issued a pre-ticket warning. One officer couldn't even really say why he gave them the ticket in the first place, other than telling the judge he did it because a citizen pointed at the WIB and yelled at him to "stop that!" Plus, the officers even got the date of the alleged crime on the ticket wrong, writing that it happened the day after the protest.
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Relieved to be done with the whole mess--but vowing to be more vigilant and careful about her activist actions from now--Polk says they opted for a trial by judge, rather than by jury, because she "wanted the law to be judged and not our patriotism." And the take-home lesson, according to Polk? "Always protest with a partner so that there's always a witness." And, you know, that other, minor part: "Observe all laws."