Welcome to America, where men with loaded guns call unarmed citizens “tyrants” and men with Swastika tattoos claim the “other people” are the Nazis …
This is the on-going story of Gilberton, Pennsylvania, a small borough which is living under the constant threat of terroristic violence. Where men with guns block the entrance to public meetings, where public officials openly threaten every member of society who holds a different political view than they do, where councilmen are strip searched and arrested without cause and anyone who tries to fire the Police Chief would be forced to live in fear of retaliation from a militia of armed terrorists. Pennsylvania police chief Mark Kessler is the head of a political organization which refers to itself as “The Constitution Security Force.” Kessler was recently given a thirty day suspension, for using police property as props in a video where he threatens and insults “libtards,” otherwise known as people who hold political views which differ from his own. In a second video, Kessler can also be seen threatening the life of a federal government official, Secretary of State John Kerry.
On August 1st, Kessler called on the militia to attend a meeting of the Gilberton Borough Council, where disciplinary actions against Kessler (for the videos) were being discussed. A State Police helicopter was called to the scene, as more than a hundred armed men and women arrived at the meeting, brandishing AR-15 assault rifles. Armed members of the militia blocked the doors of the public building where the meeting was held, in order to prevent those who wished to speak from entering. According to the Huffington Post, members of the group:
“angrily confronted Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress, who delivered petition signatures from 20,000 Americans who want Kessler fired. In an email Morrill told me, “I have been organizing for four decades. I have faced Klansmen in Kentucky, Ustase in Bosnia and police indiscriminately beating demonstrators in Italy. [Wednesday] night in Gilberton was more frightening than any of those situations.”
Due to mounting tensions and no doubt, concerns over increasing threats of violence from Kessler and his armed political faction, only a small number of residents were given the chance to speak during the meeting. Of those who did speak, however, many said that they themselves, or members of their families, are living in fear of Kessler and his militia.
You know why there’s not more residents here? The threats. That’s why. Because they’re afraid. They’re afraid they’re going to have their windows shot out.” – Lifelong Gilberton resident Rose McCarthy speaking about Police Chief Mark Kessler and his supporters on July 31, 2013.
Others who were allowed to speak referred to Kessler as a “nut,” a liability and a detriment to the small community. Many who wanted to speak were prevented from doing so, either because they were blocked from entering the building or because they were too afraid of retaliation to come forward. On July 31, 2013, the borough’s insurance carrier also contacted local officials, stating that they believe that Kessler may be a liability, as well. According to the “Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary” the definition of terrorism is:
The systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion
It goes on to say that terrorism is:
Systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.
The definition of terrorism is simple. If you are causing those around you to live in fear, you are a terrorist. While Chief Kessler and his armed followers may be able to delude some people into believing that they are “exercising their First Amendment rights,” there is no doubt these militia members are aware that their actions and speech are causing many others who live in the borough of Gilberton to feel threatened, intimidated and terrorized. When armed men stand in doorways, with the direct intent of interfering with the rights of other members of society, when they seek to deny the rights of other persons to participate in open public meetings, when they verbally or physically threaten other citizens who hold opposing political views, when they interfere with the rights of others to speak freely about their fears and concerns, and most importantly, when they use their weapons as a way to intimidate public officials, and members of the general public, there should be no doubt these people are terrorists and need to be treated as such.
Whether the town of Gilberton, Pennsylvania can legally continue to employ someone who is causing members of the community to live in fear, is yet to be seen. Kessler’s position as Police Chief is one which comes with a great deal of power and one which requires a great deal of trust from the public. After viewing the videos he has posted on-line, it is hard to imagine that his outright hate for everyone who holds political views which are different from his own, does not interfere with his ability to perform his duties in a non-partisan manner. Kessler’s out of control behavior has already cost the town of Gilberton a great deal of money. In 2010 he illegally arrested a councilman and performed a strip search on him.
While Kessler’s own on-line videos are filled with profanity, in 2010 the police chief claimed that the councilman’s use of profanity in a complaint made to the mayor’s office, was cause for his arrest and strip search. No evidence for any alleged “crime” was ever produced. In fact, the same councilman later sued the borough over the incident. An out of court settlement was struck, in which the tax payers of Gilberton were forced to pay $15,000 plus court costs and attorney fees, in a case which the ACLU helped to bring against Kessler and two other Gilberton officials. This settlement was arrived at only after a judge ruled that the arrest was carried out as political retaliation.
The people of Gilberton borough are also rightfully concerned about Kessler’s irrational behavior. In 2011, while off duty, the police chief fired his weapon during a bar brawl, shooting himself in the hand by mistake. At the time of the incident, police and media reports show that the bar was “packed” with people. In a report from the Republican Herald, published shortly after the incident first occurred, an officer under Kessler is quoted as saying:
He got mixed up. Why, at this point, is still under investigation.
The town of Gilberton, Pennsylvania has a duty to protect all of it’s citizens first and foremost, and to ensure that all of it’s citizens are able to exercise their constitutional rights. Since Kessler also runs the police in Gilberton, who is there to arrest these militia members when they threaten and intimidate others citizens? Who is there to protect other members of society and ensure that their rights are being protected? How can citizens who hold political views that differ from those of Kessler and his group of gun-wielding bullies not feel terrorized in Gilberton? The Constitution Security Force web-site makes it clear that members will not hesitate to shoot people for expressing political views contradictory to their own.
It’s always interesting to note that right wing groups like these, even while calling themselves by names like the “Constitutional Security Force” have no desire to protect the constitutional rights of others and feel no guilt for trampling on the constitutional rights of others. They believe that preventing others from expressing their views is their right, even though the right to free speech and the right to live without fear of retaliation for political speech are fundamental principles of the Constitution. It’s not about the Constitution, it’s about political terrorism. It’s about suppressing the rights of everyone that disagrees with you, through violence and threats of violence.
If Gilberton borough council members cannot find the courage to stand up to these armed terrorists, the people of the community do have every right to suit their elected officials for failing to protect their constitutional rights. The moment those men with guns began blocking the doors to a public meeting, they should have been arrested. No-one in Gilberton seems to have the courage to arrest members of an organization which is operated by the Chief of Police, even when their actions are clearly illegal. Every citizen who was intimidated and harassed on August 1st, when trying to speak to the town council, should now band together and file charges against the police and council, both of which are refusing to uphold the constitutional rights of the general population.