from the because-not-everything-is-a-Zionist-conspiracy dept
Copblock is dishing some dirt on a "warrantless" FBI raid in Cleveland, purportedly over a convenience store owner's controversial murals.
The FBI recently raided a small gas station in Cleveland, Ohio for apparently no other reason than having a controversial mural painted on the wall.Here's some video of the raid, which apparently concluded (the video, not the raid) when FBI agents shut down the recordings.
The SWAT team, armed with rifles, handguns, and bulletproof vests, stormed through the store without showing any warrants or answering any questions about why they were there according to the store’s owner, Abe Ayad.
According to Cleveland’s NewsNet5, Ayad demanded to see a warrant from the agents, but they were never able to show him one.
Over the years, Abe Ayad has displayed a number of potentially-offensive murals on the outside walls of his convenience store. These were painted by artist Harry Bell and have depicted, among other things, Israel's prime minister bending Uncle Sam over a pile of dead soldiers, a rabbi fellating* an infant and, in slightly less inflammatory (but potentially infringing) manner, Joe Camel giving Abe Ayad a thumbs up for… I guess, selling lots of cigarettes.
*While this sounds entirely despicable, there is a small bit of truth underlying the depiction of a rabbi with his mouth on an infant's penis. Here's a description of the circumcision process, as practiced by some Orthodox members of the Jewish faith. It's short, but says all it needs to say.
Under Jewish law, a mohel must draw blood from the circumcision wound. Most mohels do it by hand with a suction device, but some Orthodox groups use their mouth to draw blood after cutting the foreskin.Abe Ayad "identifies" as a Muslim, which probably makes him a Muslim (distancing use of "identifies" courtesy of Cleveland.com), which probably explains why so many of his murals target Jews. That these are displayed on the outside of his business sort of makes it a civic issue. In all fairness to the city, it has never demanded a removal of the murals. It has only asked that they be made smaller and thus less visible from the road.
Ayad has refused. And if a man's home is his castle and his licensed business his castle with an ROI, then he should -- for the most part -- be free to decorate it with images others might find offensive. (Obviously, actually obscene images would be another issue altogether.) Those offended are free to tell Ayad he's a racist and a fool and spend their money elsewhere. It's not as though Ayad is the sole provider of anything in Cleveland. But considering the issues at the center of the artwork, the city has responded in a mostly commendable fashion. There seems to be nothing approaching a heckler's veto being humored here.
That's the good news. Here in the US, people are free to display their irrational hatred and ignorance. If Ayad isn't actually committing violence against Jews or imploring others to commit criminal acts, then his artwork is just a two-party wall of shame that should be pitied for its deep-held ignorance, rather than booed off the face of the planet by the offended.
As is the case with many anti-Semites, Ayad feels any harassment he experiences as a result of his murals is linked to a "Zionist conspiracy." He has also been represented by a now-permanently disbarred attorney who, not coincidentally, claims his disbarment is the result of a "Zionist conspiracy."
Ayad also claims to have been raided by local police in 2009. He doesn't specifically say it was because of the murals (it's implied) but law enforcement seized money, guns and an apparently very expensive stamp collection. Most of it was subsequently returned.
"They can’t arrest me. For what?” said Ayad. “2009 they raided me too. No charges. They gave me back my guns, they kept my money and then they gave me back my money minus the coin collection, which was valued over $3 million.”Similar items were seized in the recent raid. But this doesn't have anything to do with the murals, even if Ayad is skewing it in that direction. Cleveland.com has, simultaneously, no details and more details.
FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said agents surrounded and sealed off the East 55th Street gas station about 10 a.m. to execute a warrant.Ayad, however, did.
She would not provide any other details.
The store's owner, Abe Ayad, said agents were looking for evidence of food stamp fraud and illegal gun sales. Ayad said no such activity has taken place in the business.Which is not the same thing as being raided for controversial murals. Ayad may believe this is part of a conspiracy to shut down his business and save the city from having to field more mural-related complaints, but it appears the issues at hand in this raid (and the 2009 raid as well) are unrelated to the paintings on the exterior walls.
Now, it may be possible that two raids with six years between them are both a part of a larger plan to disrupt and destroy Ayad's business. It could be Ayad's multiple appearances in court for civil lawsuits are also instrumental to the city's long-term plan to be rid of his murals forever. Or it could simply be that neither of these are related to the artwork, but rather inextricably tied together because the murals on the outside can't be separated from the interior of the business endorsing these viewpoints.
It may be that someone in Cleveland's law enforcement community has it in for Ayad, possibly because of the murals, but there doesn't appear to be a sustained history of harassment. While the city would undoubtedly enjoy a respite from Ayad's "antics" and the complaints that follow them, there's very little here to justify any claims that the FBI raided Ayad's store over the murals. Free speech (mostly) lives here and Ayad's contentious relationship with a great many people has yet to see his store shut down for any reason, legitimate or not.
As for Ayad not being allowed to see the warrant, that's perfectly legal as well. Law enforcement officers are under no obligation to present the warrant before performing searches or seizures. It's simply enough that the warrant exists and is presented to the raided party at some point during the search. A "warrantless raid" -- as this has been portrayed -- means the absence of a warrant, not just that the raided party wasn't presented with a warrant before it commenced. Any number of exigent circumstances exist that allow for the presentation of a warrant after a search/seizure has already commenced. In this case, paperwork was handed over to Ayad at the time of the agents' departure. So, while a bit on the shady side morally-speaking, the entire operation clearly falls within the legal bounds.
I'm all for a "bad cop/censorship" narrative, but one doesn't exist here. I prefer the ones where the official parties have buried themselves, rather than grab a shovel and start hurling dirt when in possession of only a bare minimum of facts. So, score one for the good guys, I guess -- pending any further details that point to the FBI being pointed in the direction of Ayad because (a) he's Muslim and (b) he owns guns.