Rally in Washington DC – Aug 2007

Here is some coverage from the Rally along with photos.    I tried to get pictures of most of the speakers. There was not a published list, so I hope my spelling of the names is close! If I had contact info for the people, I tried to include it below.

I left from upstate New York Friday morning.  The car has a ‘little’ rust, but bumper stickers are very useful in improving the look!   I left at 9am and made it to the hotel by around 4pm.  Some people came a lot farther.  The CRISPE  http://www.crispe.org/ bus drove all the way from California. A lot of people drove down from Michigan (I think the reform groups from Michigan were the most represented along with groups coming from Massachusetts).

The ‘hard work’ award should go to those two guys from Michigan, Robb MacKenzie & Robert Pederson – they rode their bikes!  Visit their website:  http://www.cycling4children.com/

There were well over a hundred people at a pre-rally reception held at the Best Western Pentagon Hotel on Friday evening. (Sorry, I forgot to bring my camera and take pictures!)  Rev. Ron Smith spoke to the group about the need for unity. “this is not just about mothers or fathers — but parents and children!” He called the event a chance for people to network with others and call public attention to the need to get government out of family life.

Film producer Angelo Lobo showed some longer excerpts from his movie: Support? He spoke about his commitment to the movie and the message that needs to be told about the need for reform and the destruction of family life going on every day. http://www.supportthemovie.com/

On Saturday morning I took the ‘blue line’ to Smithsonian Station to get to the Rally. You have to be impressed with the scenery on the National Mall — there’s the Washington Monument and me!  The Rally was held in front of the Lincoln Memorial and it is an impressive site.   You don’t quit realize how large President Lincoln is till you see the You Tube Video of the F-4-J parents standing on his lap. (I wasn’t there when they climbed Mr. Lincoln on Friday afternoon, this photo is from the F-4-J site, http://www.f4j.us/, more photos there).


We had hoped for many thousands of parents be at the event — what we got was several hundred, but still the biggest crowd I had ever seen in almost 7 years of attending different Washington parent rallies. Rev. Ronald Smith did a great job putting it together and has made a commitment to seeing it repeated on the same date each year as our efforts continue to grow!  Contact him to help.

Below are a few shots of the crowd that I took at various times during the day:


Although it’s not clear in these photos there were some F-4-J members holding purple banners and dressed in combat fatigues?  As a former military officer that struck me as a little strange?  I liked the idea of costumed superheroes, but why combat fatigues?  Someone explained to me, ‘that was their way’.
Later on, someone from the event staff asked them to move away.

There are some pretty noble words etched on the side walls from the Gettysburg Address. The climbing of Mr. Lincoln was not sanctioned by the DCRally2007 committee.  It was a separate surprise action by F-4-J, but I was fascinated by the difference of opinions by people at the Rally on Saturday? I thought everyone would be very supportive, but many were not.   One person told me it was a ‘desecration’ of the memorial?   I was very fortunate to be invited to a released-from-jail dinner held for the two British Dads, Mr. Jolly Stanesby (on left) and Mike Downes (on the right).   In the middle is Mr. Donald Tenn (F-4-J Coordinator from California). He also spent the night in jail and was arrested for helping them climb up the monument.

Also arrested, Mr. Robert Dickerson from New Hampshire, who was still jailed as of Sunday due to a pending ‘support action’ from his state.

I had the chance to talk with Mike Downes and unlike many of the ‘frenetic’ speakers at the Rally (more on that below), he was very quiet about his efforts and unassuming. He told me that one of the Park Police had told him they were ‘desecrating’ the memorial.  I can’t quote him exactly, but with his British accent he said, “I told the officer that far from desecration, we were honoring your President’s noble commitment to human freedom as he fought against slavery.  If Mr. Lincoln could see the tragedy of how children are taken from parents in America — he would be very happy with our actions and would probably join us.”   I asked him what the police said in reply, “nothing.”

Mr. Steve Walker, board member of ACFC, was one of the first to speak and he focused on the need for Federal Legislation to protect our Family rights.

Personally, I read it and wondered about the need to solidify our goals and the bottom line lack of real protection.  Is this how great Civil Rights are worded?  The only standard of proof that would have protected my family (and probably most of yours) is not ‘clear & convincing evidence’ decided by a single judge — but proof of seriously harming your children beyond ‘a reasonable doubt’ decided by a unanimous jury verdict of our peers in criminal court.

The next speaker was Ms. Gail Head from Texas, she is involved with a group on Yahoo http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TAFUnited/ and is especially concerned with the actions of Child ‘Protective’ services.  On display behind the podium was the “Awareness Quilt” of children separated from their families.

The front had photos, but the back had a different set of names along with dates of birth & death — of children put in foster ‘care.’   It was a somber moment.  She said other groups could use the quilt, just contact her.


Ms. Ashley Clark, a 2nd wife, also spoke about the need for reform.  She has a group called Mothers for Shared Parenting.  http://www.MothersForSharedParenting.org/

Mr. James Semerad (a Commander in the Navy Reserves) and member of http://www.DadsOfMichigan.Org/ spoke on the many obstacles the system places in front of our Veterans.  How easy it is to lose contact with your children or have a ‘default’ judgment entered when serving our country.

Political Science Professor and Author, Dr. Stephen Baskerville, also emphasized the need for reform and the protection of Family rights.  For much more on him, including his new book, “Taken Into Custody”,  see: http://www.stephenbaskerville.net/   He is also the President of ACFC (the American Coalition for Fathers and Children).

There were two speakers who gave what I thought was a  ‘frenetic’ presentation. A lot of passion, and anger, and blame.  The speaker on the left is Dr. Shirley Moore. The speaker on the right is Dr. Sheila Mannix from IFCAA, Illinois Family Court Accountability Advocates.

The presentations did not appeal to me, but I found that many people in the audience did like what was said and their passion.

In the afternoon there were two very powerful speakers who seemed to impress the entire audience and hold their attention.  On the left is Judge Willie Lipscomb from Michigan, he had an impressive background.

Some speakers who couldn’t get the words out fast enough, Judge Lipscomb spoke at a measured pace and seemed to hold everyone’s attention.  I took notes on some of this phrases, “Family is the school of love & The best lessons are learned at home”

He encouraged people not to lose hope in reform.  He recalled how strong segregation seemed to many back in the 50s, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”  It did not last.  “We cannot substitute for mothers, we cannot substitute for fathers.”    He called everyone to return next year in greater number as this becomes an annual event!

Following Judge Lipscomb, it was a bit of a surprise to hear a presentation from a former NFL defensive back, Mr. Tim McKyer, who also has three Superbowl rings!  With humor and passion he explained the indignity he felt when told his children were better off at daycare than with him.  They wanted his money, but not him. He talked about the special difficulties a black man has in becoming an equal parent and the devastation caused by fatherless homes.

I found he had an inspiring message to the many parents who find the pain of separation to be too much, and the struggle against the system too hard.  He said, “Man up! It’s been a seven year fight and guess what!  It’ll be seven more for my kids, I’m not giving up!”

For a VIP, he was very accessible and approachable.  He stayed at the hotel and was happy to sit and speak with the moms & dads who were present. At the left you can see him some of the folks who came from Michigan.    On Sunday morning he came down for breakfast and sat with me and two other moms, Tammy Heaberlin & Celeste Campbell, from Massachusetts.

He also had his picture taken with Jolly Stanesby & Mike Downes from the UK. They had climbed the Lincoln Memorial.  We had to explain to them his role in American football!


There were additional speeches on Sunday, but I was not present.  One speaker, Mr. Bob Norton, is a CEO of a high-tech Company with a strong corporate record.  He too is fighting to be an equal parent to his child and is very active in the reform effort in Massachusetts.  I had the opportunity to speak with him personally and respected his ideas about reform.  His speech was recorded, click here for You Tube.

Personally, I was very happy with the event and the way it brought people together.  The Internet is nice, but their is no substitute for face-to-face communication.  I was also glad to meet people that had written me in jail and offered support.   As I reflected on the speeches given that day, many talked about rights, or how we had been wronged, or corruption — but no one spoke about more sacrifice by parents?  I couldn’t help but recall some words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King at a church rally:

“In our protest there will be no cross burnings. No white person will be taken from their home by a hooded Negro mob and brutally murdered. There will be no threats and intimidation. We will be guided by the highest principles of law and order . . . our actions must be guided by the deepest principles of our Christian faith. Love must be our regulating ideal. . . .

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that use you. If we fail to do this our protest will end up as a meaningless drama on the stage of history, and its memory will be shrouded with the ugly garments of shame. . . (when the history books are written) . . . There lived a race of people, of black people, of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and civilization.”

Also, by Mahatma Gandhi:

“My personal faith is absolutely clear. I cannot intentionally hurt anything that lives . . . even though they my do the greatest wrong to me and mine . . . I hold the British rule to be a curse . . . It has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation ….

This non-violence will be expressed through civil disobedience . . . My ambition is no less than to convert the British people through non-violence, and thus make them see the wrong they have done to India. I do not seek to harm your people. I want to serve them even as I want to serve my own . . .

If the Indian people join me as I expect they will, the suffering they will undergo . . . will be enough to melt the stoniest hearts.”

A beautiful summary by Professor Gilburt Murray of Oxford:

 “Be careful in dealing with a man who cares nothing for sensual pleasures, nothing for comfort or praise or promotion, but is simply determined to do what he believes to be right.  He is a dangerous and uncomfortable enemy because his body, which you can always conquer, gives so little purchase over his soul.”

I felt a little embarrassed, but I asked Jolly & Mike if I could have my photo taken with them.  I really respected them and their quiet, but powerful actions.  To travel to another country and risk jail…

It was strange but when I heard people at the Rally say, “Equal parenting” is in the child’s best interest — I could not help but disagree and think we are on the wrong track.   To be presumed fit & equal parents to our children is a basic human right — it may or may not be ‘best’ for our kids, depending on us — that’s what freedom is about.

Think about it, should people really be free? Look how they get fat, smoke, hurt each other — wouldn’t it be in our ‘best interest’ if the government controlled us all the time?  No!  That is why we choose freedom and that is why we should all be presumed ‘equal & fit’ parents.

There was more scheduled for Sunday, but I left and returned home so I could get back to work early Monday morning.   Hope to see you next year, if not sooner!

John Murtari