Rage against the machine

Imagine that you are a pioneer of the old west. Over many years you have worked hard to establish a home and a farm. Now imagine that a marauding gang of thieves has begun to harass you. They destroy your crops. They threaten your safety in order to extort money from you. When you are away they vandalize your home and poison your livestock. Year after year it continues. You are peaceful and do not resort to violence. You follow all legal remedies attempting to end the persecution, but it is all for nothing. Judgments in you favor are simply ignored. You soon learn the marauders in fact want what you have created; they want your land for their own use. You offer to sell it to them if only to end the nightmare. They refuse. They would rather scare you off so they can simply take what is yours.

Sounds pretty terrible? Surely this is a scenario for which we need government? Sadly, it is government itself that is the villain in this story. This story is true. It took place in our own backyard in Roswell, Georgia. The gang of marauders is none other than the local code enforcement office and police department of the city of Roswell. This is the story of Andrew Wordes (aka “the chicken man”) and his fight against an intransigent bureaucracy. When you battle an implacable foe something must eventually give.

The details of this story are sufficient fodder for a feature length film. To read a more detailed account please see this report or to hear the story in Mr.Wordes own words please listen to this. In synopsis: In December 2008 Andrew Wordes was cited by the Roswell zoning department for having chickens on his property (even though the ordinance specifically permitted such chicken husbandry). The mayor of Roswell actually stepped in to help but the city bureaucratic “machine” ignored all attempts at reason. Even former Governor Roy Barnes represented Mr. Wordes in his suit against the city (being a chicken farmer Mr. Barnes was partial to his plight). They won the suit against the city. In response the city rewrote the law so that he could only keep chickens if the city fixed a drainage problem that the city itself was responsible for: they refused to fix the problem. Then the harassment really began. He was constantly in court due to numerous petty citations (e.g. improperly stacked firewood). The city’s police department routinely waited outside his house in order to follow him and issue citations for minor infraction. The city (illegally) pressured his mortgage holder to foreclose on the mortgage. Someone poisoned all his chickens when he was away one weekend. He was jailed for 3 months for minor zoning violations (grading himself to try to fix the problem the city refused to fix) and while in jail had to file bankruptcy. While jailed his home was burglarized. He spent his life savings legally fighting every instance of this unwarranted harassment. On March 26, 2012 he was to be finally evicted. The police showed up and after multi-hour standoff he instructed them all to move back. Seconds later he lit the match that ended his life and engulfed his home in a fireball.

They pushed him to the edge. And for what? Turns out that the “Roswell 2030 Plan” includes a parks area that just so happens to be centered on his property. Imagine that. Perhaps the scariest part of this story is that even with the political clout of the mayor and a former governor on his side he remained helpless against the onslaught of harassment from those truly in power: the faceless machinery of the “state”. When even elected officials cannot help the average citizen in their fight against unelected bureaucrats we are well on our way on the road to serfdom.