PoC reported on this story a little while ago (click to read the story if you wish). I’ll very briefly summarise. Mary Alston, 60, and Beverly Roberts, 84 are TNR volunteers. In their eyes, and in the eyes of others, they provide a community service to the citizens of Wetumpka, Alabama, USA. They keep the feral cat population down. As part of the TNR program they feed the cats. This is normal. They are good people.
They were arrested by heavy-handed police for a range of misdemeanours (minor crimes). When I first read the story, I thought it was ridiculous and I still do. It looks to me like the charges have been trumped up to protect the police from their heavy-handed behaviour.
The police say that they were previously warned not to feed stray animals. It looks like these two ladies got into a dispute with the police which is the back story. The police became aggravated I would suggest and decided to come down on them like a ton of bricks.
Rather than having a word with them, they have prosecuted them. They’ve dragged them into the criminal courts. They were arrested on public property and face misdemeanour charges of criminal trespassing according to the Montgomery Adviser a local newspaper. Where is the crime? They were on PUBLIC land carrying out a community service that benefits all.
And Roberts has been charged with disorderly conduct and Alston faces an additional charge of interfering with government operations. These two other charges are very spurious. They are the kind of charge that the police lay against people when they are scratching their heads to find an applicable charge.
UPDATE: next day: Guilty! Mad. City Judge Jeff Courtney sentenced Beverly Roberts, 85, and Mary Alston, 61, each to 2 years of unsupervised probation and 10 days in jail. The jail sentences were suspended. They were also ordered to each pay $100 in fines, plus court costs. I understand that they will appeal and they should if they can afford it.
FURTHER UPDATE 25TH DEC 2022: They are appealing their conviction and will have a jury trial. The ‘criminal trespass’ charge comes from the fact that the police ordered them to stop and they carried on. Did the police have the right to order cessation of TNR? It was on public land.
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And very often, the police create a scenario in which they can apply general charges such as “disorderly conduct”. That’s how they work sometimes. The police approach a person and intimidate them. The person becomes aggravated and argues and defends themselves. They are then charged with “disorderly conduct” because they are arguing with the police. It’s damn near a police state sometimes.
Terry luck, an attorney for one of the women echoed what most people believe namely that this is a waste of taxpayers’ money and way too heavy-handed. He said that they were performing a public service and “There were plenty of other ways this could have been addressed without the ladies being arrested and taken to jail”.
Wetumpka Police Chief Greg Benton said that feeding stray cats was a nuisance because it attracted animals to the area. Comment: we know that this is a potential problem but TNR volunteers normally feed cats for a set period of time and then take up the food. This minimises any attraction to wild animals.
The police chief said that they had been warned repeatedly before being arrested.
The story has attracted international interest. As it should. When you think of the amount of crime, genuine crime, that takes place in places like America and the UK, which goes unaddressed, it beggars belief that the police can spend all this time bullying a couple of old ladies.
In the UK, about 5% of all crime is prosecuted as I remember. Maybe even less than that. That means 95% of criminal behaviour is successful. The criminals in the UK think that they are in a profitable business which is completely safe from police interference. The citizens are alone.
Wetumpka is a small place with 7,200 citizens located about 15 miles north-east of Montgomery.
Most people hope that they will be acquitted to demonstrate to the world that a bit of common sense can apply. The judge has it in their power to deal with this trial sensibly and pragmatically and I would argue decide that it is not in the public interest to prosecute these ladies. See update. The judge didn’t do what I suggest. Bad. Mad.
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