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Happy Veterans Day: Veteran Violently Arrested and Sentenced for Playing Banjo in Wrong Place

“As military we are told we are fighting for freedom, civil liberties, and the Constitution, but we come home and are beaten black and blue and thrown in jail for exercising these rights”

Philadelphia, Penn. – Emily Yates, a U.S military combat veteran, was attending a ‘No war with Syria’ rally in Philadelphia last summer when she was violently arrested by Federal Parks Services rangers for not complying and repeatedly asking why she was being told to move.

The combat veteran was sentenced on Friday to three years of probation and a $3,300 fine on charges of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, stemming from the incident. These were clearly trumped up charges, as the video shows that Yates was the one who was assaulted, not the rangers, as she yells,

“We live in a police state! We live in a f*cking police state! They’re damaging my body and my personal property! I went to war for this country! Stop manhandling me! Stop! Stop! Help! Help!

She had been invited to perform at a pro-marijuana rally Aug. 31, 2013 at Independence National Historical Park. It was a hot summer day, so Yates along with many others had stood under some trees to get a reprieve from the heat.

She was approached by the Federal Parks rangers and told that she needed to move as they began to erect barricades around her. As you can clearly see in the video, Yates simply asks why she needs to move, not understanding the reason for being told to move.

As she continued to inquire as to why she needed to move, the rangers told her it was classified and that she simply had to move because they said so. As she continued her inquiry, Parks Services rangers became very authoritative demanding she leave the area.

It was at this point where the Federal Parks rangers, without explanation, began to violently arrest Yates.

She had her back turned to Parks Services rangers, when they grabbed her wrists, bent her over a park bench, picked her up by her arms and legs and dragged her away to a separate area away from the crowd, dropping her on the ground face first.

“As military we are told we are fighting for freedom, civil liberties, and the Constitution, but we come home and are beaten black and blue and thrown in jail for exercising these rights,” said Yates.

This violent episode triggered her PTSD from traumas that she had experienced from her active combat duty while serving in the military. She was taken to the Philly Federal Detention Center, where she was held for 3 days in solitary confinement, was never told what she was arrested for and never read her rights. In addition, she was refused access to the prison psychologist for 2 ½ days.

She was subsequently charged with arbitrary trespass, resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. Her attorney explained to the prosecutor that Yates was now suffering from PTSD, brought on by her experience as a combat veteran and the emotional trauma suffered from being forcefully grabbed from behind and the ensuing aggressive actions of the rangers.

In an interview, Yates told The Free Thought Project,

“This is indicative of the normalization of authoritarianism in our society. In a truly free country, any citizen – let alone a war veteran – would be free to ask questions of law enforcement and receive a civil response. The fact that this is not only allowed, but enforced through our justice system. If we believe that our military is capable of providing and enforcing freedom and democracy around the globe through constant warring overseas, we need to take a better look at how that freedom and democracy is going here in America. We are free to buy and to eat and to drive big gas-guzzlers, but not to ask questions.”

Yates, who served two tours in Iraq for the U.S. Army, was also found guilty of disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order, in addition to the assaulting an officer and resisting arrest charges, during a bench trial in federal court presided over by District Judge Thomas J. Rueter.

“It is a sad day in America when a person who has gone to war to defend our freedoms to speak and assemble, is next to the Liberty Bell and assaulted by rangers for trying to exercise those freedoms,” Yates told Philly.com.

The injustice system has once again failed to protect citizens from the authoritarian tendencies of law enforcement and conversely has served to embolden the ever-growing police state in America.

Judge Rueter, during Yates’ bench trial, had the nerve to suggest that she was lucky she wasn’t beaten worse. What kind of sentiment is that for a judge to express? When did it become standard practice for law enforcement to impose physical abuse upon citizens and that behavior is tacitly accepted, if not outright supported by the court?

This case demonstrates exactly how corrupt not only the law enforcement apparatus is, but the judiciary as well. If judges refuse to stand up for citizens exercising their rights, but rather pander to the will of law enforcement, one can be fairly certain that justice cannot and will not be served.

I guess this is how the system chooses to “thank a vet,” on this Veterans Day in “the birthplace of liberty.” A very sad statement on the paradigm of modern day America.


Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis, on Facebook at Sir Metropolis and now on Tsu.

  • Chauncey Robinson

    These are the results of a big mouth political false leader like Senator Diane Feinstein calling us mentally disturbed. We must file suit to have all Federal, State and Local databases reviewed in order to remove the declaration of Mrs. Feinstein and any other government officials. This was a complete injustice and to see that one of the officers put his left hand near her chest area, we might have just reviewed sexual harassment. I hope she sues each and every officer that was present at her false arrest.