Dear Democracy Now! Visitor: We are an independent, ad-free daily news program that serves millions of viewers and listeners each month. Our show is special because we make it our priority to go where the silence is. We put a spotlight on corporate and government abuses of power and lift up the stories of ordinary people working to make change in extraordinary times. We do all of this with just a fraction of the budget and staff of a commercial news show. We do it without ads, corporate sponsorship or government funding. How is this possible? Only with your support. If every visitor to this site in December gave just $10 we could cover our basic operating costs for 2015. Pretty exciting, right? Please do your part today. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in 2015.

Your Donation: $
Thursday, April 15, 2010 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: Binghamton, NY Marks Tax Day with City Hall Counter...
2010-04-15

12-Year-Old Des Moines, IA Peace Activist Faces Trespassing Charge for Antiwar Protest at Offices of Sen. Harkin

Guests

Frankie Hughes, twelve-year-old who was charged with trespassing after protesting war funding at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s office last week.

For more on this story we’re joined now via Democracy Now! video stream by twelve year old Frankie Hughes and her mother Renee Espeland.

Renee Espeland, charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" last week after her twelve-year-old daughter refused to leave a protest at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s office. The charge was dropped this week.

DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

We turn now to an antiwar mother and daughter from Des Moines, Iowa. Last week, Renee Lynn Espeland was charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" after her twelve-year-old daughter Frankie Hughes refused to leave Senator Tom Harkin’s office while protesting the war funding in the current appropriations bill. This week, the Des Moines police dropped the charges against Espeland, but her daughter still faces a trespassing charge. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

We turn now to an antiwar mother and daughter from Des Moines, Iowa. Last week, Renee Lynn Espeland was charged with, quote, "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" after her twelve-year-old daughter Frankie Hughes refused to leave Senator Tom Harkin’s office while protesting the war funding in the current appropriations bill. Frankie Hughes was also charged with trespassing.

At the time, Police Sergeant David Murillo told the Des Moines Register, quote, "I understand and fully appreciate a person’s constitutional right to free speech. However, this was a case of bringing a child into a criminal arena."

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, this week, the Des Moines police dropped the charges against the mom, Renee Espeland. Her daughter will still have to see someone in juvenile court over the delinquency charge of trespassing. So we’re going to Des Moines right now by Democracy Now! video stream to talk to twelve-year-old Frankie and her mom Renee.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Frankie, let’s start with you. Tell us what you did and when you did it.

FRANKIE HUGHES:

Well, I went to — I went to, I think — OK, so I went to Tom Harkin’s office to protest how he is funding the war. I think it was a Wednesday. And it’s just — it’s not OK what he’s doing. And he has a way to make — he has a way to be a hero and just not fund it. Yet he needs a push.

AMY GOODMAN:

So when you went into the office — and I know you have to turn up and down your computer as I’m talking and then turn it off when I’m not — as you went into the office, tell us what you did.

FRANKIE HUGHES:

I just walked in the office, and then I started — I sat down. Chris Gaunt was on the floor. After like a minute, I went up and I talked to the man that was sitting at the desk. I told him to tell Tom Harkin a couple of things, like how I want to know the real reason why we’re in there, and not the fake one, and how I want to know, like — and then I asked him why he thought we were there. And he said, “Well, my opinion doesn’t matter.” And I said, “Well, it matters to me.” And then he said, “My opinion doesn’t matter,” repeatedly. And I just couldn’t believe that somebody would think their opinion just didn’t matter.

AMY GOODMAN:

Renee, were you there?

RENEE ESPELAND:

Yes.

AMY GOODMAN:

And were you participating in this action, as well?

RENEE ESPELAND:

Well, we’ve been spending, either on a Wednesday or a Thursday — we have a Thursday vigil that we do in sort of downtown Des Moines, and then we go up to the federal building. And both Senator Grassley and Harkin’s offices are all — both on the seventh floor. So we’ve been making visits once a week since October. And so, this was just a day — this was an extra day that we had gone, because Chris was going to be there. And yeah, we were just trying to go and kind of keep also some relationship building with the staff in the office, so that it’s not, you know, just an intermittent thing, that they actually expect us and they know us and we can learn names, that kind of thing.

AMY GOODMAN:

Explain who Chris is.

RENEE ESPELAND:

Chris Gaunt has been just — she has just been a champ, as far as making a really heartfelt, quiet, prayerful, oftentimes silent presence repeatedly and then staying. And so when Frankie said she was on the floor, she has been doing — like at 4:00, she’s been laying on the floor and kind of turning it from a sit-in into a die-in.

And, for instance, about a month ago, they decided not to just give her a federal citation, but also state charges, and they took her to jail. But our state is broke, and so we have all these furlough days. So then the next day was a furlough day, so she had to stay in jail an extra day before she could see the judge. And in Pope County, where we live, they charge jail rent. And so, they most certainly — I mean, they charged her the jail rent on the furlough day, which was interesting. But she was there doing a die-in, and then Frankie joined her.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And your reaction when officials began charging you with contributing to delinquency?

RENEE ESPELAND:

They were threatening, and they oftentimes will make some threats. I didn’t really — I thought it was ludicrous. I really didn’t think they’d have any grounds to do it. For instance, yesterday we were in Senator Grassley’s office, and they were threatening to get ban and bar letters from the federal building, which as we are there with — oftentimes Chris will have the First Amendment written on a little piece of paper. You know, it’s silliness. But then the next day I did find out that if I didn’t go down to the police station and sign this citation, that they would issue a warrant, so that’s what I did.

AMY GOODMAN:

So, let’s figure out — Frankie, you’ve been charged with trespassing. And what does that mean? And what’s your response to that charge?

FRANKIE HUGHES:

Well, I don’t believe that I was trespassing. I mean, that is a federal building, and we are the federal people, which means I have a right to be there. But if anybody did think that I was truly trespassing, it means that you’re on a place you’re not allowed, and they need to go home or whatever. Like if I walked on somebody’s yard, it would be trespassing. But the only reason why I’d go to jail is if they didn’t like me.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And Frankie, what’s been the reaction of your classmates and your teachers to your extracurricular activity?

FRANKIE HUGHES:

Well, my teachers, they haven’t really put any mind to it. They might know, but I’m not really sure. My friends? There’s about three people that read the paper, and so they knew. And they either thought that it was cool or they thought that I was doing a good thing. There was about one person that did not think that, because their — one of their parents were in war. And this isn’t all of — but one of her parents were in war, and she doesn’t want to think that, like, they’re there for no good reason.

AMY GOODMAN:

And what’s your answer to that, Frankie?

FRANKIE HUGHES:

Well, I understand how she feels. I mean, if my parent — if one of my parents or both were in war, it would just — it would kill me, and I’d have to figure out a reason why they were there, because if they were just like risking their lives for somebody’s money and power other than their own, it just — I would, like, crack. And so, I believe where she’s getting it. I believe that that’s how she feels. But the thing is, is the truth is that they’re not there to protect our country. They’re there to give power to the government, even though they may not know that.

AMY GOODMAN:

Renee, they’ve now dropped the charges of you contributing to the delinquency of a minor to your daughter for participating in this protest in Senator Harkin’s office?

RENEE ESPELAND:

Yes.

AMY GOODMAN:

And what has Senator Harkin had to say about this?

RENEE ESPELAND:

Not a peep. And here’s what had happened, is that Frankie had gone in with a five-page letter from Senator Grassley and was — she didn’t agree with much of it, but she had gone in, and he had issued this letter or sent this letter to her. And Senator Harkin has not given us a response since October, with weekly visits. Not a peep.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’ll leave it there. We thank you for being with us, Renee Espeland and Frankie Hughes. Frankie is twelve. Renee is her mother. They’ve just dropped the charges against her mother for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, as Frankie continues to protest.

Show Full Transcript ›
‹ Hide Full Transcript

Recent Shows More

Full News Hour

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.