Wednesday, June 14, 2006
MAINE COPS WOULD LIKE SOME DNA...JUST FOR THE HECK OF IT
Environmental activists demonstrated in from of the Maine State House yesterday after police requested DNA samples from them for some sort of on going investigation.
Most of those asked did not comply.
According to the Boston Globe in April, members of Earth First! planned to camp on Sears Island, in defiance of a ban on camping on the state-owned property. But after police searched the island and confiscated equipment found there, the activists decided to camp on private land off the island.
There was some interaction between police and activists on a causeway that links the island to the mainland, but there were no arrests or citations, and police returned the camping equipment.
But a month later, state police officers knocked on the doors of about a dozen people they identified as linked to the Sears Island events. They had an unusual request: a DNA sample.
A lawyer representing some of the activists, Philip Worden, said police were casting an over-wide net.
"This does have all the hallmarks of a classic fishing expedition," Worden said. "And obviously the courts do not approve of that if there's any kind of interference with Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights."
"My own main concern isn't just with the people that were asked," Worden said. "It's the chilling effect on everybody else. If you get the idea that just because somebody attended a legal environmental meeting, that by doing that the state police might show up at your doorstep, ask for a DNA sample as though you might be suspected of some sort of terrorist activity ... that's going to scare people."
The following is from WLBZ in Maine.
DNA "Dragnet" Angers Activists, Prompts Protest
Environmental activists and civil libertarians who are upset over a state police request for DNA samples as part of an investigation held a news conference outside the Maine State House Wednesday to denounce the request as unacceptable.
The protest by about two dozen people was prompted by a request by state police. Investigators asked about a dozen environmental activists in Maine for DNA samples as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Police did not disclose the nature of the investigation, but say say the request was totally voluntary.
A Maine Civil Liberties Union lawyer said that if investigators don't have a warrant, they should leave the activists alone.
The MCLU's Zachary Heiden also said that "harassment, intimidation and DNA dragnets have no place in our democratic society."
The protesters also oppose a newly enacted state law that increases penalties for so-called environmental terrorism.