Left: Peace activist and author Mike Ferner in his Point Place home; photo by historymike
(Toledo, OH) Mike Ferner, arrested over the weekend with his brother John for spray painting peace messages on area freeway overpasses, readily acknowledged that his actions were illegal.
“Yes, it is a violation of the law to spray paint an overpass, but who’s the real criminal here?” he asked. “This war, and how it’s being waged, and the laws that are being broken, and the suffering that is being created and borne by hundreds of thousands of people is really the highest act of criminality that one can imagine.”
Ferner also pointed out that public property extends far beyond concrete freeway structures.
“As far as the people who might point out that it was public property, the Constitution belongs to the public, and our federal laws, like the War Crimes Act of 1996 belong to the people,” he said. “The international treaties that our government has signed over the years - like the Geneva Convention - belong to the people, and yet they are being violated every day by the Bush administration.”
The former Toledo mayoral candidate and two-term city council representative said that he was not surprised by the severity of the police and judicial response.
“When you confront the government and say what you are doing is wrong, immoral, and needs to stop, that’s when they decide to play hardball,” he said. “If you go down I-75 or US-23 between here and Columbus any day of the week you will see graffiti saying “Go Titans,” “Go Tigers,” or “Debbie Loves Mark.” I don’t think any of those folks – even if they would have been caught in broad daylight - would have been pulled over by four patrol cars and charged with two felonies.”
Ferner, who spends most of his time these days writing articles and working on a book he hopes to publish, took issue with the priorities of the judicial system.
“This is an example of selective enforcement and selective prosecution,” he said. “In a normal graffiti case, the judge would have likely released us on our own recognizance. In our case there was no O/R, and we had to post a $3,000 bond with no percentage; our attorney asked for the typical 10% and the judge said no.”
Ferner, who faces up to a year in prison if convicted of the felony charges, asked those who might condemn his actions to consider those of the American government.
“What’s the charge for killing 100,000 dead Iraqis and 2,000 dead US troops, not to mention the thousands of soldiers coming home in pieces and the families destroyed?” he asked. “Technically I broke the law. But let’s compare that with the law-breaking that I am protesting and trying to do something to stop; there’s not much of a comparison between graffiti and the wholesale slaughter of human beings.”
This interview also appears in the Toledo Free Press, one of my favorite periodicals.