When Shellie Smith woke up on August 2, she was still in the Garden of Eden, but it sure didn't feel that way. Members of various law enforcement agencies including Arlington Police Department descended on the sustainable organic farm with warrants alleging an extensive marijuana growing enterprise. What they found instead of weed was weeds.
Acting on what it called "a number of complaints," Arlington police used tactical units and narcotics detectives to raid Smith's 3-and-a-half-acre property at 7325 Mansfield Cardinal Rd. Adults living on the farm were frisked and handcuffed around 8 am on August 2, while law enforcement combed the area for alleged criminal activity.
In the end, Arlington Code Compliance Services says it hauled away 24 old tires holding stagnant water, more than 20,000 pounds of "nuisance materials" – and no marijuana.
The City of Arlington maintains it was just doing its job to "resolve safety issues within neighborhoods."
Smith is none too pleased with what she calls unfair and unlawful treatment.
"The City of Arlington has trespassed and committed robbery against us, amongst other crimes, and will be held accountable in a court of law in due time," Smith said in a statement. "We have been targeted by the system because we are showing people how to live without it. We are growing more than just tomatoes here, we are growing the consciousness that will allow people to live freely and sustainably, and the system doesn't want that to be known."
Smith and Quinn Eaker, another person who lives on the farm, have recounted their ordeal in the form of an online petition. More than 250 people have signed on to support "inalienable God-given rights as upheld by the Constitution and Bill of Rights" and "to show the alleged City of Arlington and the people of this community, as well as the world, that the government employees are to be responsible for their actions, transparent in all their interactions, and accountable to the People."
For its part, the City of Arlington maintains it was just doing its job to "resolve safety issues within neighborhoods." City spokesperson Tiara Richard said in a statement that Code Compliance has received numerous complaints from area residents about "unsanitary conditions on the property that promote the harboring of rodents, mosquitos and fire hazards."
Photos on Garden of Eden's Facebook page show a trailer full of scrap wood, carpets and red leather couches being hauled away by the city.
"This was some amazing, brilliant red cafe seating, corner benches to align in a circle for our 'villagers' to gather together around a campfire, skooched up cheek to cheek, telling stories and laughing into the wee hours of the morning under the full moon. And the Code Compliance employees believed and treated these vintage treasures as trash!!! Oh my, they have never spent the night in the Garden of Eden," Smith wrote on Facebook.
Arlington police admitted using aerial surveillance on the farm as well as visiting it and receiving a tour before their search of the property.
And that's just the beginning of the differences in opinion between city officials and those from the Garden of Eden. Eaker told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he was "held at gunpoint for multiple hours" without access to his camera. A statement from the Garden of Eden says the entire ordeal lasted about 10 hours.
Arlington police said in a statement that they were on the scene for only 45 minutes, and the adults who were handcuffed were released after 30 minutes and allowed to "conduct their daily business around the property, including the opportunity to leave the premises if they so desired." Photos of the raid seem to show that Eaker, or someone else on the farm, had access to a camera while the property was being searched.
Arlington police followed what they say was credible intelligence, including the Garden's use of the phrase "Uber Dank High Vibe Cuisine" to advertise its food products. APD admits using aerial surveillance on the farm as well as visiting it and receiving a tour before executing search warrants on the property.
"The City codes are in violation of our natural and Constitutional rights to live freely while causing damage to no one, and since there is no damaged party, there has been no crime committed on our part," Smith said.