In Memoriam: Andrew Wordes, Enemy of the State
The power of the state is the power to destroy. Let us not forget its victims, from the millions killed by despots abroad, to our very neighbors here at home beset by brutal bureaucracies.
“It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lessons that this long course in human wickedness had taught us — the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil. ” ― Hannah Arendt
I had a bit of a jolt this past week when I read of the apparent suicide of a man whose name seemed somewhat familiar to me, Andrew Wordes of Roswell, Georgia. Upon reflection I realized the name was that of a man I'd crossed paths with myself in occasional political discussions on Facebook, which explained my startled reaction upon seeing his name and learning of his self-inflicted death on March 26.
I didn't know Andrew and don't recall any conversations with him directly, but he struck me as a pleasant enough sort who seemed to share many of my own views, from distrust of centralized government to the virtues of self sufficiency. The news articles I saw after his death kept mentioning a nickname for Andrew I hadn't seen before, every single one of them referring to him as the 'Chicken Man' early on in each piece. The bizarrely comic nature of the name struck me as jarringly dissonant with the somber facts of the story, and I felt compelled to dig deeper to learn more about it...and why the people discussing it seemed so obviously eager to make the association between the man and that odd moniker inseparable.
Andrew had lived in Roswell for about 13 years, but his troubles with the bureaucrats began in early 2009 when city code enforcement officers issued a citation to him for having too many chickens on his property. A few chickens on a piece of property just a few percentage points under an acre in size, which if not legal, was awfully close to legal. When a neighbor filed a complaint, that gave the government an excuse to act. As we will see later, it turns out that they were actively looking for that excuse.
Wordes fought the citation. I notice that some journalists claim the law was 'vague,' but that's only because of the obfuscations of the municipality in its zeal to prosecute Wordes; actually the law specifically excluded chickens from its regulation of livestock, but the city responded with "a complex set of statutory interpretation arguments" that essentially said they'd made up their minds and had no wish to be bothered by facts. The presiding judge dismissed the case in May 2009, but by then it was too late, the city officials had Andrew in their sights.
Was Andrew Wordes another Charlie Manson or Tim McVeigh, some potential menace to society that drew the attention of local law enforcement? It doesn't seem so; on the contrary; during the above legal proceeding he organized a "Chicken Stimulus Package" to draw attention to his cause, publicly giving away 600 baby chicks to Roswell residents, an act that in saner times would have been taken more as the mark of a gentle soul seeking aid from his community than that of a scofflaw deserving of punishment.
In the summer of 2009 the Roswell City Council rewrote the law, banning roosters and using lot size to limit the number of chickens a resident was allowed to have on that land. From this point on the story accelerates and takes a darker turn. Before I add the summary of the events, I want to add that as I learned more about this case, I found myself asking the big question: why? Why would city officials go to so much trouble, expending time, energy and resources, to nitpick a man about a few chickens, for goodness' sake? I was already getting the strong impression that this was a criminal conspiracy on the part of the city of Roswell, and as any criminal investigator will tell you, there are two salient factors they look for to ascertain criminality: motive and opportunity.
It's clear that the city certainly had the opportunity, between their rewriting laws to suit their acts of aggression against Andrew and his property, and at least one Stasi-style local resident denouncing (complaining about) Andrew, they had all the opportunity they needed. So what's the motive?
The answer came from the city itself, as I discovered when going over this page from Off Grid Survival: back in 2003, the city drew up its '2030 Comprehensive Plan,' including a map of the proposed area it affected, and apparently Andrew's property was smack in the middle of it. The city wanted Wordes' property and boldly planned to use it themselves.
In studying various reports of the timeline of Andrew's ordeal, I was conscious of the fact that all of these reports are technically hearsay. Fair enough, but given officials' habit demonstrated over the years of distorting, omitting or even fabricating facts to support whatever their official story of the moment is, in our brave new world hearsay is often all we have to rely on. The critical factor for me was that all of these accounts, whether they included more or less data than others, meshed smoothly with no glaring inconsistencies between them. In my experience that's been the most reliable way to determine the facts gleaned from the swirling chaos of the Internet. Here's the account I found most instructive, courtesy of the Georgia Outdoor News forums:
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
* December 2008: Roswell Zoning Department issues a warning for the chickens on his property. (At that time, the City of Roswell’s Code of Ordinances said “On less than two acres you MAY NOT have livestock except for poultry and swine.”) The City decided to issue a citation anyway. Mayor Wood attempts to step in and stop the city, but the city moves forward. Both parties head to court.
* Spring 2009: Mr. Wordes hires former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes to represent him against the city. Both parties presented their cases to Judge Maurice Hilliard who issued a dismissal of the case against the Chicken Man.
* Summer 2009: The Roswell City Council rewrites the law, without a ‘grandfather clause’, to make all but 6 chickens on a property illegal–directly targeting and affecting Mr. Wordes. The law further states that the ‘legal’ chickens must remain in a permanent enclosure.**
(**Mr. Wordes property sits on a flood plain. 3-4 feet of water rises on his property when it storms. Because of this, the city would not issue a permit for a permanent enclosure, therefore making it ‘illegal’ for him to have his birds. This is important because after the storms and flooding in September 2009, with a 6 foot storm surge of Storm Water the sewer backed causing 4 feet of Storm Water and SEWAGE in the basement of his home. In order to save his home AND his chickens, Mr. Wordes borrowed a Bobcat to move the dirt around. He was subsequently issued citations for too many chickens, grading of property without a permit and too many cars on his property. The City also would not submit requests for FEMA funds for the property. The property has flooded several times since this initial flood.)
* The City of Roswell contacted Mr. Wordes mortgage holder, an elderly woman who has held his mortgage for the entirety of his 16 years in his home. With the threat of liens, citations and grievances, the City pressures Wordes’ mortgage broker into SELLING the note to another broker for 50 cents on the dollar. The current mortgage broker is attempting to foreclose on Mr. Wordes home.
* Mr. Wordes reports to court for his citations after the flood. Judge Hilliard again rules in his favor stating that he is ‘grandfathered in’ to the new law, but must complete 180 hours of community service for the illegal grading and the excessive number of cars on his property. Unbeknown to him, his sentence of Community service also requested him to be on probation which he was unaware of and immediately requested that he be allowed to pay the fine.
* Mr. Wordes is harassed by the Roswell Police Department as well. He is pulled over more times than we can count, thrown in jail on multiple occasions, and given a number of petty citations. It’s common for multiple police cars to sit at the end of Mr. Wordes street and ‘wait’.
* The City of Roswell files Zoning violation for having a Nuisance property and he is appointed a Public Defender of course to be paid for by The City of Roswell. His court appointed counsel states in court that the ordinance is vague and the city will likely lose again.
* Roswell later additionally files a 55-page civil suit against Mr. Wordes in an attempt to take his property from him again charging him with having a Nuisance property. This is the first civil suit to attempt to take a man’s property in the history of Roswell. This civil suit was filed in attempt to deny Mr. Wordes his right to a public defender, as he can no longer afford to pay for representation. Fortunately because of Mr. Wordes involvement with Georgia Carry, they have provided legal representation for him.
* The City lists Mr. Wordes home on the ‘Roswell 2030 Plan’ as a green space and parks area, publicly announcing and solidifying their effort to take his property. (View the plan here http://www.roswellgov.com/DocumentView.aspx?DID=1552 –the road you’re looking for is Alpine Drive. Can you believe this? He is still the lawful owner of his property but the City has a 20-year-plan to dissolve that. Note that Mr. Wordes has offered to SELL his property to the City, but they have declined. Instead, they want to take the long and painful route of forcing him into foreclosure so the property can be purchased at a reduced price. This would also prevent Roswell from having to face pending lawsuit for damages, "inverse condemnation" and taking of his property, and the many civil rights and due process suits which would follow.
* July 2011: Mr. Wordes leaves his home to attend a political rally. When he returns home, he finds that all of his chickens have been let out and feed is all over the ground. The next day, his birds begin to die. Mr. Wordes realizes that someone has poisoned his birds. Over the course of the next few days, Mr. Wordes loses 1/3 of his livestock, including 45 baby turkeys (10 of which belonged to Roswell Mayor Jere Wood), 25 chicks and 6 adult birds. I spoke with Mr. Wordes personally and he claims there is no doubt in his mind who was behind the poisoning. He alleges that it was his next door neighbor who has rallied with the city through this entire process. You see, Mr. Wordes has a very private backyard that is surrounded by woods. From the street, however, it would appear that people were home because there were a couple of cars parked in the driveway. Unfortunately, Mr. Wordes posted on his Facebook page that he would be attending this political rally. Mr. Wordes has indications that lead him to believe that his neighbor monitors the page through other names (via his neighbors own personal website that has a page dedicated to ‘The Chicken Man’). Mr. Wordes alleges that this neighbor is the only one that would 1) know the seclusion of the property, 2) have access to the property in addition to knowing where everything is and 3) have a motive to commit such an atrocity. A police report has been filed, but is not moving forward at this point due to the lack of proof. The birds were taken to two different forensic labs to determine the source of poisoning but the necropsies have not yet returned. In the meantime, this has become an economic hardship on Mr. Wordes since he cannot sell the eggs from his hens since the poisoning.
* Mr. Wordes is due in court August 10 at 2:30pm (a specially scheduled hearing on a day the court is not usually in session). The hearing is public at the Roswell Municipal Court. He will be arguing a probation violation for missing a ‘check-in’ over the time his birds had been poisoned. At that hearing Mr Wordes is taken into custody and ordered to serve the remainder of his probation for a trumped up zoning violation amounting to 99 days in jail.
* Roswell of course invited the press and issued a press release stating Mr Wordes house is vacant and the RPD will be keeping an eye on things. Of course within hours, began the three month long ransacking and looting of his home. Everything of value was stolen or destroyed including a large collection of firearms, weapons and ammunition that in the hands of criminals puts the entire community at risk.
Mr. Wordes was foreclosed on while he was in jail for 3 months (for a minor city zoning violation). When jailed the Roswell Police refused his access to his records, to contact his Bankruptcy attorney, was refused to attend a court ordered hearing held for the benefit of him and his creditors in United States Federal Bankruptcy Court and by doing so Roswell refused to allow Mr. Wordes to provide the Bankruptcy Trustee with documentation he had ordered him to provide. That information gave the Bankruptcy Trustee the right to HALT the foreclosure on his home of 16 years while still protecting the mortgage holder.
Roswell opened their court room and held court on an unscheduled day instead of waiting until the next week and made an announcemnt to the press stating his house would be vacant and Roswell Police would keep an eye on it. It was less than 24 hours before the City Chief, Dwain Orr and The City Manager Kay Love were informed in a meeting with a prominent citizen that Mr Wordes house had already been the scene of a burglary and looting and Mr Wordes had a extensive firearms collection. Their statement was that they were not going to do anything and thanks to Roswell there is a large cache of weapons and ammo in the hands of criminals.
Municipalities have engaged in scurrilous practices before to obtain property they wanted, even at the cost of lives. One notorious example is the case of Donald Scott, a Malibu millionaire killed in 1992 during a contrived drug raid by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and agents from five federal law enforcement agencies. Though this raid was cynically orchestrated for the express purpose of using asset forfeiture laws to take Mr. Scott's property, and the report of the Ventura County District Attorney, Michael Bradbury, concluded that the police lied to obtain the search warrant, not one official was ever indicted or prosecuted for this criminal conspiracy. Perhaps this time if there's enough public awareness about Andrew's case the outcome will be different.
You can read Andrew Wordes' own comments on his persecution by the City of Roswell that only add support to the other data I've presented, and you can hear his voice describing parts of his ordeal in a radio interview (see the YouTube clip below).
A side note: as I mentioned earlier, again and again I have seen Andrew referred to as the 'Chicken Man' in every single mainstream article reporting his death. While I don't doubt that the appellation of 'Chicken Man' began as a friendly nickname bestowed on him by friends and neighbors, I firmly believe that the mainstream media has used it so eagerly in a tactic that intentionally prejudices their audience's impression of the man in a wholly negative way; to someone unfamiliar with Andrew's character, any story prefaced with 'Chicken Man' colors their perception of him with a grotesque and cartoonish slant before they digest any actual information about him. Since I really did not know Andrew personally, I refuse to play that game. The mainstream media, with its slavish devotion to the Almighty State, does this as yet another way to aggrandize its master while trivializing any individual with the audacity to stand up to it. Non serviam, guys, that particular sleazy tactic's something I've been aware of for a long time.
I believe that Andrew Wordes had a choice set before him on March 26. He'd been financially ruined and spiritually tortured by the City of Roswell officials' callous acts, and had he simply surrendered would have joined the legions of other homeless and destitute Americans, allowing this case of vicious criminal conspiracy pass into obscurity as did the case of Donald Scott. Viewed in this light his act can be seen as a last effort to alert the public to another atrocious example of the destruction of Americans' property rights, one not of desperation by a disturbed mind, but a considered, selfless...and resigned...last good deed to quite literally send up a flare warning the rest of us of our danger. I pray I never find myself in such a dismal situation, and can only hope I'd comport myself with half of the strength of character and integrity that Andrew showed on that day if I do.
Rest, in peace, Andrew 'AKfortyseven' Wordes. I wish I had known you better.