NOTE: This story was updated 12 noon Sunday (scroll to bottom for latest additions — Part 3a)
By now it seems the story of the SWAT team raid on Manna Storehouse coop in Ohio is “going viral” on the interwebs. A Google search for “Manna Storehouse coop raid” yields 3500 results. The story is being posted or discussed on countless blogs, boards and websites. Here’s one site that’s done a good job of aggregating the available data on the case. And here on the Bovine, this story alone accounted for something like 1,200 hits — and that would be just from yesterday. So it’s definitely a story people care about, even if it’s almost totally ignored by mainstream media. The one local paper that carried the story mentioned nothing about the SWAT team or the family being held at gunpoint.
Some significant new information came to light about the case on Friday, when journalist David E. Gumpert called Katie Stover and learned that while she and her family were being held at gunpoint in their own home by American authorities, her “head of the household” was serving his country in Iraq. Read David’s excellent analysis here on the Complete Patient Blog titled “Seems U.S. forgot to tell Navy Seabee Chad Stover the real war is being fought here … and he’s the enemy.”
Here’s a little from that report:
“When officers from the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio arrived last Monday at the Manna Storehouse food cooperative in LaGrange with weapons drawn and trained on Katie Stowers and her children, along with her in-laws, there was one member of the family missing.
Katie’s husband, Chad, is a U.S. Navy Seabee, helping in construction projects in the midst of combat in Iraq. He’s been there, separated from his family, for the last five months, supposedly protecting our rights from abuse—the sort of abuse that appears to be taking place on an ever-more-frequent basis at farms and food outlets around the country.
I should point out that Katie didn’t broadcast the information about her husband to me—I inquired about it after she had to interrupt our telephone conversation to take a call from Chad in Iraq. Presumably, she was updating him about the raid he missed, in which sheriff’s deputies, together with food inspectors from the Lorain County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Agriculture, herded the family into a home living room, and kept them under the guard of armed officers for about seven hours, while they executed a search warrant, taking food, cell phones, three computers, and business records. I asked Lorain if she was aware of the irony of her husband putting his life on the line in Iraq, while she was being held at gunpoint in her home by American law enforcement officials, and she said, “It occurred to me.”…”
Of further interest is the fact that the story was also reported Dec. 3, 2008 in a local newspaper, “The Morning Journal”. Interesting to read their “sanitized” version that sounds a lot like most other newspaper stories — kind of makes one wonder how heavily filtered all the other mainstream news is. Here’s an excerpt from that report, which is titled “Local Food Cooperative Searched by State”:
“PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP — An Ohio Department of Agriculture agent seized food, electronic devices and documents from a Pittsfield Township organic and natural food cooperative believed to be unlicensed, according to a search warrant filed yesterday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
Jacqueline and John Stowers, owners of the Manna Storehouse, 43565 SR 303, were inspected in November 2007 by the Lorain County General Health District, according to court records.
On Monday, ODA enforcement agent William Lesho confiscated hundreds of pounds of processed beef and large amounts of lamb, turkey and other perishable products in addition to office files, a computer, two cell phones and other electronic devices, according to the search warrant inventory. The items were taken to establish the Stowers’ ownership in any property, records of hidden wealth or illegal income and anything that would establish illegal activity, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Jacqueline Stowers declined to comment because she had not seen the court papers yesterday evening.
A health district sanitarian and two other inspectors visited the cooperative on Nov. 30, 2007, to make observations and were told to leave. Jacqueline Stowers wrote in a December 2007 letter to the sanitarian that the inspectors never had permission to be on their property and that the Manna Storehouse is not operating a retail food establishment that requires a license.
“We declare now that we do not want to be a ‘licensed retail food establishment’ or a ‘food service operation’ and we do not plan to become one in the future and that we will not knowingly conduct any activities that would require that type of licensing,” she wrote.”
The comments that follow the web edition of this story are not so restrained, however:
” THANK YOU for actually reporting this story. Every other Cleveland news outlet has ignored it.
You may also want to include the fact that a SWAT team held semi-automatic weapons at the Stowers’ families heads all day while the raid was conducted. They were also not read their rights and had items confiscated that were not included on the search warrant. Who needs Constitutional Rights, anyway? All because they wanted to eat and sell healthy food…
The Buckeye State has become a Police State. “
” What a clear breech of their God-given rights! These people are being targeted by our police State because they are independent and not within the control of the State. People should be able to raise their own food as they see fit, without harming their neighbor, and be able to distribute it to their neighbor as well. God bless them for their work and all work like it, and may it be restored to its former condition. The State should pay dearly for persecuting its own citizens. Bravo to this paper too for publishing the story. “
” We need to bombard the ODA’s inbox and telephones with messages. We will not stand for this. This is a constitutional violation up one side and down the other. Those poor babies that were held by gunpoint – who had no idea what the heck was going on – are going to have nightmares and anxiety for years to come!
Welcome to the Obamanation, folks. Get used to it. “
” This nation was founded by people who raised their own food without government bureaucrats sending SWAT teams into their homes.
The Department of Agriculture people ought to be ashamed of themselves and their behavior. But I’ll bet they’re not. I’ll be they think they are doing the right thing, and either don’t understand the Stowers or despise them as “noncompliants.” Scary and wrong.
Tell me again why more government is a good idea? “
Farmer Fred wrote:
” I do hope the Morning Journal will follow up on this story. The paper did not mention the SWAT participation in this, but a very disturbing account of it is plastered all over the internet. It could be a “rumor,” but other of these types of incidents have been reported in the mainstream press. If the SWAT story turns out to be true, then the Ohio governor’s office, the ODA, and the mainstream press should most definitely be inundated with public outcry. Please follow up. “
” Looks like we have Terrorists invading Ohio … oh wait, it’s just the cops ! “
” Those Commies deserve what they get.
Interfering with corporations seeking profit!!!!
The money that co-op can save its members RIGHTLY should be going into corporate coffers!!!!
How can you be a true American and allow commoners to disturb the lawful rightful cash flow upwards into the hands of the rightfully deserving of the USA?
Interfere with the USA’s elite class, corporate systems and wealth/powerful special-interest groups at your own risk.
The law enforcement bureaucracies exist to maintain the distance between the elite class and you mere commoners.
Simply OBEY your betters and all will be well.
Disobey and prove your lack of loyalty, your lack of patriotism and your likely non-support of the troops.
Let this event be akin to Waco and Ruby Ridge, a message to the masses of citizenry that OBEYING is the safest route.”
And now here’s the closest thing we have to an explanation for what seems, to most commentators, like excessive use of force:
In a comment today on the Complete Patient blog, “An Observer” gave a possible explanation for what seems like the excessive use of force in this case:
“….And, as far as the use of law enforcement during the “action,” things changed after the murder of USDA and state inspectors in 2000 at a meat/sausage plant. Sadly, due to the violence, I don’t think it is taken for granted by regulators that anyone is just a “peaceful farmer.”
Santos Linguisa Factory – Scene of Triple Homicide
Here’s a part of the story that “An Observer” refers to (from the link above):
“On June 21, 2000, Stuart Alexander, 39, (known as the “Sausage King”) killed two USDA inspectors and a state inspector when they attempted to conduct an inspection at his Santos Linguisa sausage factory at 1746 Washington Avenue in San Leandro. Prior to the murders, Alexander made a failed bid for San Leandro mayor in 1998 and was charged with beating Clifford Berg, his neighbor, in 1996. At the time of the murders, there was a large sign posted at the front of the factory stating, “To all of our great customers, the USDA is coming into our plant harassing my employees and me, making it impossible to make our great product. Gee, if all meat plants could be in business for 79 years without one complaint, the meat inspectors would not have jobs. Therefore we are taking legal action against them.” U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors Jean Hillery, 56, and Tom Quadros, 52, and state Department of Food and Agriculture Inspector Bill Shaline, 57, were killed. State Inspector Earl Willis escaped as Alexander chased him down the street.
On October 19, 2004, Stuart Alexander was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, making him eligible for the death penalty.
On December 14, 2004, a jury condemned Alexander to death. See the original story….” [i.e. SF Gate news story]
And, from another Complete Patient comment — this one by Dave Milano — here’s a rational explanation of what sort of position vis-a-vis State regulations Manna Storehouse may well be coming from (though at this point that would be only speculation):
“If Manna Storehouse is a private cooperative, then why should the government have any control at all (beyond demanding adherence to criminal statutes) over their transactions? Did the Stowers murder anyone? Assault anyone? Steal from anyone? If so, undoubtedly they would have been charged and arrested.
What is most likely happening here is that the food cooperative existed privately, and therefore did not involve themselves with government via permits, fees, inspections, and all the rest. That, in the mind of big brother, is an unforgivable sin, and warranted an armed raid.
The Community Alliance for Responsible Eco-farming (CARE), a private group of farmers and consumers in Pennsylvania, recently released a statement regarding the relationship between private citizens and constitutional government. Their position is basically that the government has a right to control and regulate what the government creates. If, for example, the government creates a corporation (essentially conferring “person” status to that entity) then it has every right, every duty even, to oversee it. But men are not artificial entities created by government. Men are natural, and when they act as private citizens, government must stay out of their way. In fact, government is supposed to protect citizens from the actions of any entity that might inhibit the free exercise of their natural rights. When government does otherwise it blurs the line between private and public, effectively deeming EVERYTHING public, and thus making constitutions irrelevant.
Here’s a bottom-line quote from CARE’s statement: “[...these agencies have] no constitutional authority to require a permit for direct private sales conducted anywhere by private individuals, involving private property, using private contracts.”
I agree with CARE’s position, and think that anyone who truly believes in constitutional government ought to agree as well.
Now I don’t want to put words into An Observer’s mouth or anyone else’s, but I wonder… When we read Observer’s statement regarding meat inspection regulations, that “There are strict requirements for ‘exemptions’ ” does a thought arise, something along the lines of, “Oh! The Stowers didn’t follow the rules?” They must be guilty, and the government therefore has a right to go after them!”?
That might be a likely response today, but I would suggest that a constitutional perspective ought to produce a very different view. Amanda shouldn’t “need” any third party permission to sell her meat openly, fairly, honestly, and privately, especially if that permission costs money or time, and especially if disobeying that third party might result in a police action.
We are talking food here. Who should be making the choice about what to eat except the one who is eating it?…”
Once again, here’s the link to that Complete Patient post. It’s worth reading all the comments at the bottom.
LATE ADDITIONS (Part 3a)
1) a family update from Friday from the Manna Storehouse folks themselves via Steve & Paula Runyan’s blog
2) Salt Spring News is following the story and has a nice exposition on the theme of our photo caption “Sheep may safely graze?”. (I wondered how many people would realize it is the title of a famous aria by J.S. Bach). Ironically, the theme of the accompanying words have to do with “good government”, something we are arguably not seeing in this case. It’s a lovely piece of music and Salt Spring News has a link to a YouTube version of the music toward the bottom of their report.
3) Here’s something about the legal basis on which Manna Storehouse operates, from a comment on an earlier post (Oppression Update) on Steve and Paula Runyan’s blog. This comment is by “Steve and Paula”:
“….The following is from their rules and regs.
c. Manna Storehouse is not licensed or approved by any federal, state or local agency and it does not have any plans to do so in the future.
Members agree that by joining Manna Storehouse you state that you are not an employee of any federal, state or local government agency. Any transaction, communication or observations by you and/or anyone with you cannot be reported or communicated in any way to any federal, state or local government agency; nor used in a court of law against Manna Storehouse or any member of the Stowers family.
1. “Manna Storehouse” – means a private business, non licensed and non regulated”
4.) And this is from another comment on the same post, by Robert Coss:
“… Check out this video of a raid where they forgot to take the computer with all the video footage stored on it!…. “
5.) Watching that video of a swat team in action against citizens whose only “crime” seems to be using silver and gold instead of paper notes, reminds me that it might be interesting, in this context, for readers to watch the video of the Nov 2006 raid by twenty-some armed officers on Michael Schmidt’s raw milk farm in Durham Ontario.