Tom Crosslin - Nov. 10, 1954 - Sept. 3, 2001
Rollie Rohm - Dec. 27, 1972 - Sept. 4, 2001
On the Friday before Labor Day 2001, rather than face a bail
revocation hearing for holding an unauthorized marijuana rally
last August, Grover "Tom" Crosslin and Rolland Rohm
retreated to Rainbow Farm and, according to police, began burning
down buildings on their farm.
Police, claiming they had received an anonymous tip that the fires were an ambush, built up forces on the perimeters of the property, including a SWAT team and armored personnel carrier. A four-day stand off ensued, Rainbow Farm supporters gathered nearby to vigil, demand justice and a peaceful resolution of the siege. FBI agents arrived on Monday, responding to police reports of gunshots fired at aircraft.
A visible and outspoken proponent of marijuana law reform, Tom Crosslin began sponsoring rallies at Rainbow Farm in 1996. Last May, local law enforcement authorities used the traffic death of a youth allegedly camped at Rainbow Farm the day before his death as reason to search Rainbow Farm. Crosslin, Rohm and others were charged with marijuana and firearms violations.
By mid-summer, the pressure on Crosslin and Rohm was mounting. Crosslin faced 20 years in prison on marijuana and weapons charges, was free until trial on a $150,000 bond, and the state of Michigan was moving to seize Rainbow Farm under civil asset forfeiture proceedings. A local judge issued an injunction barring Crosslin from holding any further marijuana-related gatherings at the campground. According to friends and family, the biggest blow of all, however, was Rhom losing custody of his 12-year-old son to Michigan child welfare authorities.
In mid-August, Crosslin defied the injunction, holding a small rally at the campground. Police observing the property reported they had seen Crosslin and Rohm smoking marijuana. Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter moved to have Crosslin's bail revoked. Crosslin didn't show up for the hearing, and fires began to break out on the farm.
Crosslin was armed, wearing camouflage, and was accompanied by 18-year-old Brandon Peoples when he refused FBI orders to surrender his weapon, according to police who claim that Crosslin pointed his rifle at them before he was shot and killed. Peoples, who was able to get beyond police lines onto the property, suffered minor injuries, was questioned by the FBI and released.
Rohm died early the next morning at the hands of Michigan State Police who, according to their own account, had moved in to accept his surrender. Police said Rohm agreed to surrender if he could first meet with his son, but shortly before the agreed upon hour, another fire broke out and Rohm emerged from the burning building, armed and in camouflage. He refused to surrender his weapon, police said, instead pointing it at them. He was then shot and killed.
"If the goal is to get the public to react with outrage to police use of force, the facts are not perfect here," said Keith Stroup, National Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. "With these laws, you invite this kind of situation that ends up as a violent encounter. These were two men who were ordinarily peaceable and peace loving, not violent and crazy, but they were driven to behave in a hostile and irrational manner. If the authorities had not done all that they did to these men, they would not have reacted the way they did."
Morel "Moses" Yonkers describes himself as a long-time friend of Crosslin. "I started working with Tom doing housing renovations in Elkhart," he told DRCNet. "He was always talking about wanting to buy a big, beautiful, peaceful place. Then he got a chance to buy Rainbow Farm, and he took it. I spent eight years living on the farm with Tom and Rollie. "Tom loved his freedom and wanted to help make everyone else free, too," said Yonkers.
Two of Crosslin's neighbors place the blame squarely on Cass County Prosecutor Scott Teter. "How does it feel to have innocent blood on your hands, Teter?" asked a sign they placed in their yard. The brothers told the local newspaper, the Herald-Palladium, that the prosecution of Crosslin and Rohm typified Cass County's intolerance. "I've got friends here getting busted with seeds and stems," Lloyd said.
Tom Crosslin's funeral and memorial service were held on Saturday, September 8.
Rollie Rohm's body remains in the county morgue pending results of the Coroner's report that has not yet been made public. According to a family spokesperson, Dan Wilson, a second, and independent autopsy revealed that Rohm suffered three gunshot wounds. The cause of death was suffocation, although none of the wounds were fatal in and of themselves. Near the groin area was a three to four inch wound; mechanism of injury consistent with the hard kick of a boot. Some internal organs and his testicles were missing. A third autopsy is pending.
I am sorry that I cannot be in Vandalia to join you in remembering
Tom and Rollie - two compatriots who were not afraid to stand
up and call for an end to the senseless war on drugs. I had planned
on attending this Memorial to remember their work at the Rainbow
Farm - concerts, hemp fests, advocacy, community outreach - but
the events of recent days have made air travel impossible. But
I am with you in spirit and have asked a friend and colleague
- a fellow Journeyer for Justice - to read this statement.
Obviously, I do not know what happened on the day Tom and Rollie were fatally shot by police agents - none of us here know what actually happened. Indeed, I encourage all of you who cared about Tom, Rollie and their work to use your voices and influence to ensure that there is a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding their deaths. We need to know the truth so that deaths like these do not occur again.
We do know that if there were no war on marijuana, Tom and Rollie would be here with us, planning the next concert on the Rainbow Farm. We also know that they had been peaceful people who seem to have been changed by the marijuana war - the threat to their liberty and property was too much and they courageously fought back. In their honor we should continue our advocacy against the war on drugs. It is time for this war to end - we should not be fighting an unjust war against our fellow citizens over what they put into their body, or how they want to affect their consciousness.
We also know that the prohibited drugs are one of the biggest, multi-billion dollar industries in the world. Thanks to prohibition we have created a market that fuels crime, violence and terrorism around the world. As Interpol has reported "Drugs have taken over as the chief means of financing terrorism." So if we want to injure terrorists, we need to end the war on drugs that provides them with the fuel for their violence.
The tragedies of recent days, the tragedy of Tom and Rollie and the tragedies of the other drug war deaths in the US and around the world bring to mind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his book "Strength of Love:"
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction . . . ."
Let us all pledge to stop the hate with love, drive out the darkness with light and never resort to violence. Tom and Rollie's death highlights a lesson we must all learn - non-violent resistance is the only sensible and strategic approach to ending the violent war on drugs. We must stop the spiral of destruction by constructing sensible and peaceful methods of dealing with marijuana and other drugs. And, we must not forget Tom and Rollie.
Funeral services for Tom Crosslin were held Saturday, September 8, in Elkhart, Indiana. Rohm's body is undergoing a second autopsy at the request of his family; his funeral arrangements have not yet been announced . . .
The first years of my brother's imprisonment, before we worked
with the November Coalition, in letters, long ones back and forth,
we discussed many aspects of the war on drugs. One such aspect
was the "unintended consequences" of this actual war
Gary would explain to me, "Kid, deal is, when folks know what the tunnel they are staring down really looks like, it will go a lot different. Hell, I didn't know that the government was handing out 25-year prison sentences as if they were candies. When people know - some won't go gently into this dark night.
"Law terms are often written
in Latin, and the common person can't understand it. People rendered
penniless due to civil asset forfeiture can't get a lawyer to
interpret this dead language, much less use it to defend you.
They get an over-worked public servant, just out of law school
- who may not remember your name, much less anything about your
case. They keep you in jail - you can't work on your case from
jail! They win. If you don't cooperate or can't, they can take
any drug charge and give you 20 years to life - if they want
yours over with bad enough. If you have valuable property - a
person is really up against a wall. There's extra incentive for
the police to play hardball. People will get more desperate when
they realize what the score is, real dangerous for the police,
too. More people will have guns - just because they won't go
gently into that dark night."
I didn't know that the first time we discussed these things that Gary's thoughts would cover the repeated questions of 'why' after losing these dear friends. But it was that sort of discussion that led to the forming of November Coalition, and Rainbow Farm was on the list of early places outside of Washington State that invited us to 'share a message from the prisoners of war in America.'
Volunteer Sam Reeves and I traveled from Washington State to Vandalia, Michigan to join others at the Rainbow Farm campground for a Memorial Day weekend gathering in 1998. Tom Crosslin and Rollie gave us time on their stage, and our booth attracted the heaviest foot traffic on the grounds.
Our message stayed after we departed. When Sam and I returned to Washington, Rainbow Farm constructed a permanent "Jail Cell" information booth devoted to prisoners of the war on drugs. Tom and Rollie were part of us; they will be missed, but our memory of their lives and devotion will stay. They did not go gently into the dark night.