For 8 months, we here in semi-rural western New Hampshire have had the spectacle of a couple (Ed and Elaine Brown) holding our criminal justice system hostage - with the cheering support of the "Patriot", "Militia" and other groups on the fringe of wingnuttery.
The Browns had refused to pay U.S. income taxes, due to their belief that no law compels them to. They were convicted in federal court and sentenced to five years - but since they declared themselves to be Patriots, gun-owners, et al, they found no shortage of supporters. And they remained in siege the past eight months at their home, with a "You'll never take me alive, copper!" attitude.
But this past Thursday evening...they were. (more after the jump).
With all of the brutalities that the Bush ASdministration has brought to bear on us the past 6-1/2 years, one of the very few silver linings has been the retreat to the shadows of much of the self-crowned "Patriot" movement - such as the Republic of Texas to name one example from the 1990's. I suppose that occurs when a political party has a "No enemies on the right" policy. That movement has its adherents here, as well, with the Keene Free Press so this isn't particular to one area of the country.
And Ed Brown was a veteran of those campaigns (dating back to 1995) according to a story which is no longer on-line. So after the conviction, the couple adopted a Ruby Ridge strategy - hole themselves up in their home, dare the U.S. Marshals Service to come in and risk a shoot-out.
This, of course, garnered some great press in the wingnut movement, who declared the Browns not to be common crooks, but heroes. And so the past several months, the town of Plainfield, New Hampshire has become a Mecca to that movement - that's the term that the town selectboard of Plainfield used in a letter to the U.S. Marshals Service, telling them (in so many words) to "clean house" and get the Browns outta there and into jail.
The U.S. Marshals, then, were faced with a dilemma:
(a) Having pressure brought to bear by people who wanted the Browns brought to justice.
(b) Knowing that the conservative movement considers these folks to be heroes, and
(c) Knowing that something could break-out into an Armageddon-like tragedy.
But the Marshals Service bided their time, and waited for the right moment. And it should be duly noted: the decision that ultimately made the capture possible was one that they were heavily criticized for: while watching to see if the Browns left their property, they allowed access to the house by their supporters. Lots of 'em. And the Browns unwittingly had an "open-door" policy. So this amounted to a latter-day Rope a Dope strategy.
And that's because this past Thursday evening, the U.S. Marshals Service posed as supporters of the Browns - and were able to take them into custody.
And they did it quietly - I was half-afraid that this would be on cable TV, with either Chris "Predator" Hansen or even Dog the Bounty Hunter coming in with grappling irons, et al. And now the neighbors of the Browns can now go back to living in semi-rural tranquility.
I should add that if we Democrats take back the White House next year, an unfortunate side-effect may be the revival of the self-crowned "Patriot" movement, somewhat dormant during the Bush Administration.
But for now - we won a big one. Hail to the U.S. Marshals Service!