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The High Cost of Activism

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A family flees police harassment in Texas.

Anyone who’s been to the Lone Star State knows that its unofficial motto, “Don’t mess with Texas,” is no joke—especially to the cops there. But what happens when the law in Texas messes with you? That was the frightening situation faced by my dread-headed activist pal Minister Mike, his lady Shoreline Sheena and their young son this past April after their trip to the U.S. Cannabis Cup in Denver.

The couple had just had the time of their lives and had even gotten engaged at the Cup. But shortly after returning to their hometown of Copperas Cove, two plainclothes officers approached Sheena asking to search their house, claiming they’d heard that the pair had brought marijuana home with them. How did the authorities know they’d just returned from Colorado? Most likely by monitoring their Facebook pages (one of the officers had even attempted to add Sheena as a friend weeks earlier). As an activist and Army veteran, Sheena knew her rights and refused. The police left—but not before threatening to return with a warrant and some agents from Child Protective Services.

Several days later, neighbors reported seeing the police and CPS poking around a shed in Mike and Sheena’s yard. According to Mike, these incidents were just the latest in an escalating campaign of harassment. Months earlier, they’d been given an unusually hard time while trying to establish a community vegetable garden in their neighborhood. Initially, they’d encountered no problems and were close to finalizing the permits. But after officials met them in person and saw their dreadlocks, their permits were suddenly denied. They were even accused of plotting to grow marijuana in the proposed garden.

Realizing that this harassment would only get worse, the couple felt they had no choice but to leave the home that Mike had lived in his entire life. The next day, they loaded whatever they could into their Prius and headed back to Colorado.

Sadly, though, their hardships were just beginning. After arriving in town, their family car was totaled by an uninsured driver who was driving while talking on her cell phone. Setting his family up at a friend’s house, Mike rented a U-Haul and headed back for the rest of their belongings. When he returned to Copperas Cove, he found that his pets (which were being looked after by his mom) had been seized by officers from Animal Control under trumped-up accusations of abuse. Then, as he finished packing, Mike was again visited by the police—this time under the bogus pretense of anonymous reports of domestic violence. After he explained to the officers that he was there alone, they finally left—and so did Mike.

Mike and Sheena are now safely settled in Colorado, where they’ve gotten married and are rebuilding their lives. Had it not been for the generous donations from fellow activists and friends, they would never have been able to pull off their tumultuous transplant.

If you’d like to help, click here.

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