Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Did F & M engage in Gestapo like tactics?

At approximately 4:30 PM on Tuesday, Christiaan Hart Nibbrig, Editor of the Lancaster Post, contacted NewsLanc to report what appeared to be a series of civil and criminal offenses conducted by security personnel of Franklin & Marshall College against citizens, members of the media, acting within their legal rights. Among the possible offenses are: False arrest, assault and battery, holding someone in custody illegally, and violation of civil rights.

What appeared to trigger such an over reaction was the legal placement of a box for the distribution of Lancaster Post tabloids in the State Right-Of-Way in proximity to the residence owned by Franklin & Marshall College for the use of its president, John Fry. What preceded Tuesday's incident was a front page article by the Lancaster Post describing the alleged burglary of bottles of liquor from the Iron Hill Brewery by two students of F & M.

NewsLanc requested that Hart Nibbrig provide a written description of what took place and it is published below at 12:30 AM on Wednesday, June 4, without further comment. However NewsLanc will seek to interview John Frey, members of F & M's security force, and City / Township authorities and report further on the incident later in the day.

The following is Hart Nibbrig's statement to NewsLanc. Given the seriousness and historic importance of the accusations, NewsLanc is not altering typographical errors or grammatical mistakes.

On June 3, 2008 at approximately 2:00 p.m. I met Ron Harper, Jr., my business partner and co-Publisher of the Lancaster Post newspaper at the southwest corner of Marietta Avenue and School Lane in Lancaster Township, Pennsylvania. Mr. Harper and I were going to install a newspaper box at the northwest corner of Marietta and School Lane on public property.

We brought the box across the street and were securing with a chain lock to the street sign when we were approached by a man approximately 55-60 years of age, white, wearing a shirt with the Franklin & Marshall insignia who said we could not put a box where we were putting it.

Mr. Harper replied, "The Constitution says that I can."

The man asked, "How long are you going to leave it there?"

Mr. Harper replied, "As long as I want."

I took photographs of the man and Mr. Harper speaking. The man turned and walked away back toward 508 N. School Lane. I then walked up School Lane, never entering the property, and took at least two photographs of the man speaking with a middle aged woman in civilian clothes in the driveway.

I walked back down (south) School Lane to return to my car. Mr. Harper had crossed the street and was standing near his car when I heard sirens and saw several official police-type vehicles, lights flashing, approaching us at a high rate of speed. I crossed the street and stood next to Mr. Harper as several (I would estimate six) Franklin & Marshall College security vehicles screeched to a halt surrounding us.

We were on the southwest corner of Marietta Ave. and School Lane, a public road, standing next to Mr. Harper's vehicle. Many uniformed Franklin & Marshall uniformed security staff emptid out of the vehicles and immediately went for both of us, with most of the uniformed men surrounding Mr. Harper.

I hear one of them say, "So you are Mr. Harper?"

I took a few photographs of the uniformed men; Mr. Harper was videotaping at the time. I took photographs of several of the uniformed men as they closed in on Mr. Harper. One of the men grabbed my camera from my hand and confiscated it.

I was told to put my hands on the hood of the car. Mr. Harper was directly in front of me to the right when I saw several of the uniformed men grab Mr. Harper forcefully. I heard Mr. Harper say, "I am not resisting you." I saw that Mr. Harper was not resisting the men.

Then the uniformed men, four of them, brutally slammed Mr. Harper face first onto the public street. The violence of the body slam was shocking to witness.

I heard the "Sergeant" instruct the uniformed officer who had his hand on my back as my hands were spread on the back of one of the vehicles to "cuff him," referring to me. I was told that to protect their safety I was being handcuffed. I had not said a word, had cooperated without any resistance, am 5'6" and weigh 155 lbs. I was wearing sandals and shorts. I was a threat to no one and exhibited absolutely no threatening behavior.

Sitting in the back of the car for approximately half an hour, I heard on the uniformed mens' radios that "The president is here," I could see someone who looked like Franklin & Marshall president, John Fry, dark suited, on the lawn across the street watching Mr. Harper and me being taken into custody.

Mr. Harper and I were taken, handcuffed, in separate vehicles to Franklin & Marshall College, where we were detained and interrogated.

I was released with a Defiant Tresspass Warning, which states that I will be arrested if I step onto any Franklin & Marshall property, including public restaurants on land owned by the college. I was accused of "criminal tresspass on Franklin & Marshall properties." This was verifiably false, as Mr. Harper videotaped the entire incident and it is clear we were very careful not to enter F&M property at any time.

My digital camera was returned, but several photographs I had taken of the incident were deleted.

This incident was totally warrantless. We committed no crime. We published a newspaper story critical of the college president, and we were assaulted and taken against our will, although we broke no laws.