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[AKidsRight.Org] Climbing outside the Federal Building - details and future plans.

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From: John Murtari (
Date: Sat Aug 20 2005 - 17:18:02 EDT

Good People & People of Faith,

It has been a busy week for me and for us as we continue efforts to
get a meeting with Senator Clinton.  A real dialog started between her
and parents who have have seen their families destroyed by the system
through divorce, separation, or child 'protective' services.  Most of
you know what has happened recently at the Syracuse Federal Building.

One correction to our earlier list message.  Cathy Hughes, another
coordinator for the group was unavailable to make media contacts once
I was on top of the sculpture.  With only about 20 minutes to go I
went through my cell phone contacts and found Teri Stoddard, a mother
active in reform efforts from California.  She was with her dog at the
Vet's office, but was happy to help.  She coordinated through my
office to get the contact info.  Her email address is: and she wrote a BLOG report of the
event (including some pictures) at: (scroll down to the entry for
August 18th).  She also has a nice website, My sincere thanks to Teri!

THREE big things: 

1) I climbed up some modern 'art' outside the building.  I held
pictures of parents and children who have been separated and also
unfurled a banner that read, "Senator Clinton - Please help us".  I
was threatened that they were going to come up and pull me down, that
the Fire department was going to come and pull me down.  I told them I
could come down peacefully at 3:30.  

I came down peacefully at 3:30.  Federal officials did not charge me
with any offense. I was handed over to the Syracuse City Police and
given a ticket for trespass and released.  I have to appear in Court
in a few weeks.  I will be back again at the building later next
week for more 'events'. (More details below)

2) About a dozen of YOU called and faxed the local and Washington
offices of Senator Clinton.  Where in the past staff might have said,
"What are you talking about? Who?"  They now seem to know what is
going on and why.  They are starting to listen a little bit more to
what we have to say.

Many, many of you have written and called legislators about what
happened to you and your family -- but they weren't listening.  We are
beginning to get the attention of the most powerful politician in the
United States on Family issues -- that is a good thing.  If you want
to resend your letter to Senator Clinton, now is the time.  You don't
have to be from New York -- this is a National issue and she wants to
be the next President of the United States of America.  You do not
have to mad or angry, just a two minute phone call that says:

"Please let the Senator know I'm a parent and I love my kids.  We were
separated in a process that never recognized or tried to protect a
basic Civil Right we have to 'family'.  To be together.  We need to
think about protecting Family Rights across our country.  Until it
happened to me, I never realized what an important right it is.  I
hope she will take the time to meet with parents..."  

No anger, no revenge, no name calling.  I love my kids.  The
separation is the most God awful thing I have ever experienced. A
basic Human right was violated.  We need to do something. Like the
rights we have that protect accused criminals in every State of the
Union.  We need to establish similar rights protecting the family.
(We have her contact fax/phone info below).

PLEASE, try to call on Monday.  I'll probably be there later in the
week for more 'events.'  Every single call/fax adds a layer of
'teflon' to me and makes officials more cautious about prosecution.
More importantly, it brings Senator Clinton one step closer to a
meeting regarding our issues.  If you call/fax -- please send me an
email and the details of what happened. We'll share it with others
in an upcoming FEEDBACK message.

3) I can't do this alone.  The calls and faxes are a great help, but
we need parents at the building also.  Parents who are willing to be
spectators and offer support, and also those who are ready to 'act.'
Because things are unscheduled now, please contact me and we can talk
about details (my contact info at the end of this message).

The Details
Below I have:
1). Contact information for Senator Clinton's staff.  Specific people
who are aware of our issue.  Please try to call Monday.
2). I also have more details on what happened during my 'climb' and
the motivations that led to that effort.
3). Many of you have written in with your thoughts. We'll try to share
those in an upcoming FEEDBACK message.

1. Contact Info
You don't have to be a resident of New York to call her offices.

Syracuse Regional Rep., Cathy Calhoun,
tel: 315-448-0470, fax: 315-448-0476

Washington Office, Lona Valmoro (Senior Advisor to the Senator),
tel: 202-224-4451, fax: 202-228-0121 

Remember, you don't have to express anger. Just let her staff know
that you care about Civil Rights protection for families and the
Senator should meet with parent's groups regarding the need for
National reform...  Let them know being a parent is one of our
GREATEST rights. It needs official recognition and protection.

2. Event Details & Motivation
You may or may not be interested in this.  It is a bit long. But I
wanted to not only give you the details of what happened, but also the
experiences that lead up to it.  It may also help some of you become
more active in this effort.  I have no desire to perform these actions
alone.  It would be so much easier and effective if more parents were
involved.  But on the other hand, even if I am alone, I have a duty to

When my son, Domenic (12), was here for our summer vacation (Can you
believe we get six whole weeks together!  With that much time you can
fall into a 'normal' routine.  We are very fortunate!) we talked about
what might be happening after he left.  On a trip to Syracuse I
actually took him by the Federal Building and we discussed my plans to
try climbing the sculpture.  We walked around it, measured it, and it
seemed doable.  For pictures check the links at the top of the page.

When he left (July 23rd) it was crushing for both of us. I will
hopefully be able to 'visit' him for a weekend out West come October
(if I'm not in jail).  He knew that also.  What a bizarre situation to
have to be in!

As always, I tried methods to avoid this escalation.  I sent a motion
and letter to the Judge, the US Attorney, and Senator Clinton about
how I was being pushed away from the building (the web site has
details and copies of letters).  We announced that I would be going
back on August 15th to try again.  I had hoped to get some other
parents there, to visit the Senator's offices and make an impact.

No one showed that day.  I was pushed out of the building again. I had
already decided that Thursday (the 18th) would be 'the day.'  It is so
easy to put this kind of thing 'off till tomorrow.' I was anxious.
Business activity wasn't real good and some of us had to take pay
cuts.  Me being weeks (months) in jail could be the straw that broke
that camels back.

I was worried about my mom, alone at home.  She is 89 and I live with
her now in the home I grew up in.  I have no brothers or sisters and 
have to rely on relatives and friends to help her when I am
temporarily 'tied up.'  I try not to think about what would happen if
she fell and no one was there.  I try not to think about a serious
illness striking her while I was jailed.  Did you know that even for a
non-violent prisoner, you only get a few hour death-bed visit and
a brief funeral visit if a parent dies?  What do you think about that?
Do you want to change that law?

I probably felt the same as you, till I was a prisoner myself.  You
and I probably felt the same way about Family Law Reform.  Probably
the same way Senator Clinton feels -- until it happened to us.  A lot
of people in this country feel like she does -- it hasn't happened to
them.  A big step in conversion -- help them feel your pain.

Anyway, I also had money problems.  I couldn't keep a checking account
open because the State of New York was trying to collect $50,000 in
back child support.  Imagine that!  Am I a dead-beat among dead-beats
or what!  

What are you suppose to do when a Judge sets a support level at twice
your level of income?  When another Judge then allows your child to
relocate to the other side of the country, but gives you one weekend
visit a month and holiday time?  When a support Magistrate won't even
here your petitions for modifications?  When your former spouse comes
from a very wealthy family and money is not a problem? When you are
given an assigned counsel in a support proceeding and YOUR lawyer
tells you "just pay the money, forget about visiting, you'll see your
son when he's 18." If you want the full details, see

It is an insane situation.  Many of you have also been there. I'm
happy with the actions I took and my decision to see my son at all
costs (six years later and we have a great relationship).  Many of you
decided to just 'pay'.  I can respect those decisions also.  In a
bizarre situation where 'rights' are not recognized -- how can you
expect to reach a reasonable decision?  How can someone not be hurt?

I'd also been given a financial 'shake down' by the local US
Attorney's office over a $500 fine from a trial last fall (I had also
served jail time).  I had always felt the fine was not for me, but for
you.  Any parents who might consider joining me in my efforts.  Maybe
you don't think a simple arrest would be that bad. But how about
paying the government $500 -- it's a great technique!  I spilled my
financial 'guts' to them.  There wasn't much there.  I've always been
honest about things, so their civil deposition only showed what I
already said, 'the guy doesn't have a lot of money.'

Quite honestly, I also felt they were looking for something to
discredit my effort with.  They knew about the child support
problems. Just maybe they wanted to find some hidden money and be able
to say, "See, Murtari is just a crook!  He's a dirt ball just like the
rest of them!"

Two events from earlier in the year had really 'seared' my mind.  In
May I was arraigned by the Federal Magistrate for one of the chalk
writing events that had occurred months before -- it had been the only
arrest and I hoped it would just be dismissed.  Instead, both the
US Attorney and Judge wanted to set a trial date that would happen
right in the middle of my vacation with Domenic -- what a disaster!

Anxiety & Anxiety
I want to tell you I haven't felt so much anxiety in a long time:
Since a Family Court Judge (in June of 2000) threw me in jail for
six months, two weeks before I was suppose to have Domenic for the
summer. I already had plane tickets.  It didn't matter.  I needed a
'wake up call.'

I wrote a pleading letter to the Judge and US Attorney asking for
a break, a change in date.  I didn't hear anything.  Everyday was
more anxiety when I came home -- waiting for that letter from the
Clerk - US District Count.  It never came -- what a relief!  A trial
date still has not been set.

After my summer with Dom, I did one other thing.  I wrote a 'Thank
You' letter to the Judge and Prosecutor.  I sent them a bunch of
pictures Dom and I had taken over the summer.  It had been a great
time. I shared it with them.  I thanked them for "not withholding the
compassion it was within their power to give".  (For details on all
the above, check the web site: http://www.AKidsRight.Org/actionc_syr)

Oh, how could I forget.  With about a week left in summer vacation Dom
and I were taking my mom to a doctors visit in my home town.  I made
a turn and a State Trooper turned his lights on and pulled me over.
I knew my license had been suspended for years. I just tried to drive
carefully.  I was sweating, I could end up in jail right then!

He came up to the car and told me a turn signal wasn't working (I
didn't know).  My registration and insurance were good, he took my
license.  I continued to sweat as I watched him walk back to his
cruiser.  If he runs that license my goose is cooked!  What about
Dom?  What about my mom if he arrests me right now?!

He walked back to our car. "Mr. Murtari, could you please step
out of the vehicle."  That was the worst, this is it, turn around and
we'll put the cuffs on -- I didn't know what to think!

I got out.  He asked me to walk back to his car.  He asked me if I
knew my license was suspended.  I said, "Yes." But I was lucky.
He could have arrested me right there for "Aggravated Unlicensed
Operation" - a misdemeanor in NY.  He did not.  What an awful
experience.   Some of you have not been so lucky!

I now have a pending trial in my home town.  Just one more thing
to worry about.  Imagine that!

Many of you have been through some of these same experiences. Some a
little less -- and some a lot worse.  A lot worse! It is so easy to
become bitter, angry, crazy for revenge, a caged animal.  To repeat an
earlier analogy, ready to join the 'dark side'.  How about you?

August 18th & Faith
By now many of you know the events we do, based on NonViolent Action
are a little different.  It's not just take a piece a chalk, write "I
LOVE YOU", get arrested, proclaim victory, and walk away!  I say "we',
because on one of those days another mom joined me, Cathy Hughes.
There was a very real risk we would both be arrested.  She was willing
to take that risk.  Why?  Because she loved her kids.

NonViolent Action is do it the first day, get arrested, and then come
back, again, and again, and again, and again -- until they put you in
jail, OR, they decide to take the chalk from your hand.  That is what
happened this spring.  I never expected that - did you?  Why go back &
back.  It's not the 'heah look at me" part of it, the mention in the
news.  It is the personal thing, the demonstration (to others and
yourself) of personal sacrifice. I believe in this so much, I'm
willing to sacrifice my freedom.  Talk is 'cheap', sacrifice is not.

I took the bus downtown from where I work a little after noon. I
wasn't sure if I'd be making the trip back.  I always, and I mean
always, make time to stop by a church downtown for some moments of
meditation and prayer.  

    "God, Father, Papa!  Please help me here.  I'm never sure about
    these things -- so many bad things could happen. Mama could be
    hurt -- I don't know when I'd be able to see Dom again.  Is it too
    much, am I going to far?  Please, please guide me the right
    way. Don't let anything bad happen, I'm just doing the best I can.
    Don't let me make a fool out of myself.  Forgive me, at times I
    worry about losing it all, our home, everything...

    You know how much I love Dom.  I know you can change things in a
    second.  In a moment you could open our hearts (my former spouse
    and I) and we could both be parents to Dom.  Let me never forget
    your power, your love for all of us.  As grim as things seem know,
    tomorrow could bring a new day.  Please, this has been going on so
    long, so much pain, help bring it to an end....

    And thanks for all the good times. We were so lucky this summer,
    such a nice time, Mama, Dom, and I.  So very, very lucky to be
    together. To have so much...  You know God, you know. You know..."

What Happened
As I walked toward the building the anxiety is rising.  Am I really
going to do this?  I hope I didn't forget anything. I hope I don't
slip and fall or pull a back muscle and just end up stuck!  What an
embarrassment.  God, you know...
I was still having problems getting a hold of Cathy, and then, as the
start of the message says, I got hold of Teri Stoddard.  What a
relief!  As I approached the building, about 2 PM), the coast was
clear.  Nobody was on patrol near the sculpture, and the only other
security guy I could even see was way on the other side of the Plaza,
eating lunch.

By the time he saw me jump to the first level it would be too late for
him to reach me (I hoped!).  I got to the thing (a glorified monkey
bars made of aluminum beams about 5 inches square), and started the
hop up the side. Please understand I just didn't do this 'out of the
blue'.  I had taken some time to practice climbing on some outdoor
structures that were similar.  I learned some good things.  I took it
real easy.

I got to the third level, which put my feet about 12 feet off the
ground, and started unfurling the banner and sticking it to the
structure. Once that was done I sent a quick message to alert folks I
was up there.  Then I could actually relax and enjoy the view.

Around that time some of security came up.  I knew most of the staff.
One big guy said, "John, I don't care what.  If you don't come down
right now I'm going to climb up and pull you down, I don't care if
anyone falls.  You are coming off that thing!"  I just smiled and
said, "Okay officer, but I do plan on coming down in about an hour."
He didn't climb up.

Some other people came out, some polite, some not so polite and
asked/ordered me to come down.  I told them I would be down in a
while.  In the meanwhile I can see people are looking out of some of
the office windows and some folks are using their cell phones to take
pictures as they walked across the Plaza.

I didn't yell at people, didn't make any noise.  Just quietly held up
out petition.  A few times people walking would look up and ask me
what was going.  Then I would explain.  I never gave the officers a
hard time or taunted them.  I just said I would be down in a while.

At about 3 pm, another City Police officer showed up, one who had
arrested me before (I know quite a few of them by now).  She said, "I
need you to come down John, if you don't we are going to get the Fire
Department over here to pull you down.  You don't want that to

I just told her I was sorry, that I couldn't come down now, but I
would be down at 3:30 (about 30 minutes).  I told her that was a sure
thing.   The Fired Department did not come.

When I got down, building security hand-cuffed me and took me to the
Federal Police office.  An Officer Jackson (not part of the regular
staff) told me I would be charged with 'reckless endangerment', that I
could have hurt myself or others by my acts.  I told him I disagreed.

In their office I heard them talking.  It seemed the local US
Attorney's office wanted no part of this and was not going to press
charges. No ticket from the Federal police.  They wanted the Syracuse
City Police to take me into custody.

When the police came Officer Jackson told them they should take me and
charge me with 'reckless endangerment'.  That there was a Federal
Judges order prohibiting me from entering the building and that I was
a nuisance.  The police officer looked at me, I was dressed in a shirt
and tie, he seemed a bit skeptical.  He told them he had to check with
his boss first and left.

About 30 minutes later he walked in along with a Sergeant.  He heard
the same story from Officer Jackson.  He looked at me.  I told him the
order was only about activity on the 14th floor and that he should
read it.  He also seemed skeptical about the whole thing and said to
Jackson, let's go out in the hall and talk about this.

I knew Jackson was trying to exaggerate things, but I didn't say
anything.  Didn't yell, didn't interrupt.  They ask me something, I
tell them; otherwise, I pretty much keep quiet.

When they came back, the City Police wrote up a ticket for simple
trespass.  The officer said they planned on just giving me a Court
date and letting me go right then, but I wasn't to come back to the
building that day.  I told them that was not a problem, that I was
done for the day, but that I might come back another day.

He said that was fine, as long as you don't come back today.  They
escorted me out of the building and I left, took the bus back.  It was
a relief!  I really thought I would end up spending one night or more
in jail - but I didn't have to.

Again, many, many sincere thanks to those of you who have called,
faxed, or come to the building as part of this effort.  You can't
believe how much I appreciate those gestures and what they mean to
me. I do believe we are much closer to a meeting and will have
something firm in the next few months.

Best regards!
                                       John Murtari
Coordinator                            AKidsRight.Org
jmurtari@AKidsRight.Org                "A Kid's Right to BOTH parents"
Toll Free (877) 635-1968(x-211)        http://www.AKidsRight.Org/
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