From February 14th - 23rd, 1997 there have been over one hundred arrests of United States citizens made by Lake County police in conjunction with the National Forest Service in the Ocala National Forest in central Florida.

The citizens were being stopped at blockades by county officers, then led through immediate checks of licenses and registration, questionable vehicle inspections, and in many cases, police dogs. When "probable cause" was established full body and vehicle searches resulted.

Campers began gathering to observe this treatment. This led to harrassment by the officials, which escalated to physical violence, pepper spraying, and citizens being pulled by the hair across police lines to be arrested. These attacks were documented by camera and video. Many of the citizens arrested were placed in the Lake County Detention Center in Tavares, given highest possible bails, and given longest possible waiting times for court dates.

The primary reason for these people coming to the woods was to camp freely on federal land and to gather to pray for peace. The county officials and the Forest Service answered this with aggression.

Some of the campers have banded together to continue to exercise their constitutional rights to assembly peacefully, and are planning to stay in the forest until the prisoners are freed and allowed to reunite with their families.

A few of the released prisoners are planning on filing civil suits against the police departments and the Forest Service for their absolutely unjust treatment.

In the revised Resource and Management Plan of the National Forests of Florida, it is quoted that the Forest Service planned to "strengthen partnerships with tribal governments, organizations, group and local communities." This was flagrantly shown to be a lie, as the Forest Service made no attempt to peacefully end the aggression of the two weekends.

Please contribute to our constitutional right to gather freely while there still is land to gather on. Call the Ocala Forest Ranger District at 352-669-3153 in Umatilla and demand that the Forest Service look into the unethical treatment of campers in their woods, and point out their unfulfilled commitment. These abundant arrests cannot be ignored by all people who are struggling for freedom and peace. Your time would be appreciated by all in the woods and in the prisons.