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Tulsa Officials Destroy Woman's Survival Garden

“We don’t care.”

That was reportedly the response of Tulsa, Oklahoma, code enforcement teams after illegally destroying Denise Morrison’s garden on August 15, 2011. Morrison, a longtime Tulsa resident, tearfully watched from her driveway while local officials ignored her protests and cut down her flowers, plants, and trees.

“Every word out of their mouth was, ‘We don’t care,’” Morrison told KOTV. Even after she showed them the city ordinances, proving that her garden complied with city law, the response remained the same.

Morrison, who was unemployed at the time of her property’s unauthorized destruction, used her yard as a sort of survival garden, growing over 100 varieties of edible and medicinal plants. From fruit trees to herbs that helped ease pain from her arthritis, Morrison had a purpose for every single one of her plants—which, under local law, meant that she was well within her legal right to maintain her garden. According to Tulsa city ordinances, plants may only grow over 12 inches tall if they’re fit for human consumption. Since Morrison had dealt with local code enforcement in the past, she made sure that she could chow down on all her plants.

So last August, when city inspectors sent the Tulsa resident a letter telling her they wanted the garden to go, she took it up to the local courts, knowing that she was within her legal growing rights. She knew she’d win. Or, at least, that she should’ve won.

The day after she went to the courthouse, Morrison came home to men chopping down everything in her garden down—walnut trees, garlic chives—you name it, it was gone.

"Not only are the plants my livelihood, they're my food and I was unemployed at the time and had no food left, no medicine left, and I didn't have insurance," Morrison told reporters. "They took away my life and livelihood."

Almost a year later, Morrison is finally getting her day in court. On Friday, she filed a civil rights lawsuit, accusing local officials of overstepping their bounds.

Unfortunately, cases like Morrison's aren't the exception. Check out these stories of zoning officials getting too big for their britches: from a Michigan woman getting 93 days in the slammer for her vegetable garden to Austin, Texas, officials filling in a resident's fallout-shelter-turned-home-office with 264 tons of concrete—and later charging him for the damage done.

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  • WTF||

    “We don’t care.”

    That's right up there with "Fuck you, that's why." Only now they're willing to say it out loud for the record.

  • Invisible Finger||

    We don't care. We don't have to.

    The sad part is, even THAT is a lie. Every single one of the people working on destroying her garden cared A LOT about destroying it.

  • WTF||

    Yeah, I'll bet they all had their authoritah boners on.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    But think of all the jobs they created or saved.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The very definition of shovel-ready.

  • Raston Bot||

    Grass type ground cover cannot be over 12 inches in height

    we got a guy in my hood who mulched his small townhouse's front yard and planted about 20 switch grass plants. they're 4' tall. and he won an award for the best yard in the city. no shit.

    there must be some busybody cunt on the Tulsa zoning commission who lives near this lady.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Indeed. Had she been a Brooklyn hipster growing a rooftop garden for herbs to be in her artisanal mayonnaise, she would have gotten kudos and a write up in New York magazine.

    Instead, she's an unemployed Black woman who gets punished for trying to be self-sufficient instead of willfully putting on the shackles of the welfare-state.

  • Paul.||

    Always the question that never gets explored: Who turned her in?

  • ||

    The moral of this story: Just because the little people have to comply with the law doesn't mean gummint has to

  • ||

    Fast and Furious
    Immigration policy
    Obamacare
    Warrantless wiretapping
    Patriot act...could go on forever...

    When the government refuses to obey/enforce the law...we're done. I'm literally in fear that our Republic cannot survive at this point.

  • SugarFree||

    The law is the law. The city owns that property and they can do whatever they like with it.

  • Tim||

    Somewhere, Iron Eyes Cody is crying.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Put his name on the Drone List. They'll find him.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Hello strawman!

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Nope, they chopped him down too. It's regulations.

  • Hugh Akston||

    +

  • ||

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    You don't even have any awareness of how ironic this is. Fucking awesome. Keep 'em coming, dude!

  • robc||

    It isnt a strawman.

    That is what anyone passing this type of law is arguing.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Actually the law does not allow the city to do this. Which is why she's suing in the first place...

  • Paul.||

    She has to win before we start counting our things that might hatch from some eggs.

  • robc||

    Speaking of strawman, you never responded to my complete evisceration of your "food truck is only about public property" arguments yesterday.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Perhaps my universal quantifiers need to be recalibrated.

    There do exist bans on food trucks on private property and I oppose those.

    However, most of the Reason sob stories have involved public property leeching trucks.

  • R C Dean||

    However, most of the Reason sob stories have involved public property leeching trucks.

    The ones I recall involve bans that do not have an exception for private property. Which ones am I forgetting?

  • RBS||

    Well, I'm sufficiently rageified for the day.

  • ||

    Honestly, I think burning down the city councilmen's homes while chanting "we don't care" is the only way to get the message across.

  • Fluffy||

    This kind of thing is better rage fuel than even your typical Balko nut punch.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    This should give pause to all of use who believe in self-sufficiency, prepping, or whatever else you want to call it.

    This incident proves that self-sufficiency is a necessary component for liberty. This is why the State attempts to sabotage all attempts at it. Denied of the right to stand on one's own two feet, we are forced to be docile lemmings for FEMA whenever disaster occurs.

    This incident should be shouted from the rooftops.

  • Fluffy||

    You know something?

    I wish that was it.

    I wish the state was looking at what this woman was doing, becoming afraid of it, and intervening out of fear and paranoia.

    But that's not it at all.

    They just didn't like the way it looked.

    These motherfuckers didn't need to have a real reason to do this. They didn't have to be afraid of a self-sufficient public. They didn't have to be conspiring to hold people down.

    They just didn't like the way it looked. And that, to them, meant they could destroy this woman's property.

    They don't think they NEED a real issue before they claim the right to violate your rights and destroy your property. They'll do it for the most trivial of reasons. As they did here.

  • ||

    They do it because they can. Never forget that. It's really that simple.

  • John||

    That is correct. The only solution is to burn their homes down. Seriously.

  • Pi Guy||

    I hate to think that I've come to this point but... seconded.

  • tarran||

    Whoa!

    Hold on a minute there tex!

    Arson is playing with fire. You don't know who you are endangering. The guy has a family. Their daughter may be hosting her friends in a sleep-over. He may have an invalid who couldn't escape the flames. The flames could jump to an adjoining property.

    Arson is only one step below mustard gas in endangering bystanders.

  • Brendan||

    Then people need to avoid the houses and overall presence of these little tyrants.

  • R C Dean||

    John, I think we can be a little more flexible than that.

    Tar and (renwable/sustainable)feathers, with a complimentary ride out of town on a (reusable) rail, would also be appropriate.

  • NoVAHockey||

    the problem with running them out of town is that they end up in another town. and that's just rude to your neighbors down the track.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Normally after the second ride out of town on a rail, they'd wise up.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Oh, I agree with you on their arbitrary, conscious motivation. However, I still think that there is an unconscious motivation to maintain a dependent populous.

  • Tulpa the White||

    That could be the motivation for the anti-obesity campaign; skinny people are easier to starve into submission.

  • Paul.||

    Vegans are too weak to resist.

  • ||

    Something smell's funky here. There's a motivation at play that's not readily apparent.

    Look, I'll give a counter example. My rents live near a Class A liberal douchebag cunt. And I don't use the word cunt lightly. Anyhow, they' were repaving the road by her house. And liberal douchebag cunt had let her overgrown crap-ass garden encroach onto the old road. So much so that she claimed squatters rights (or whatever) and forced the town, by taking them to court, to pave AROUND her crap-ass encroachment. So now there's this unusual 1' narrowing of the road by her house.

    So was this the case here? Probably not. But I've dealt with enough douches both in and out of government to know that stories like this are not always quite what the media presents them to be.

  • SIV||

    Why do you hate adverse possession?

  • ||

    Yeah adverse possession is good. Down here you can't have it against the city so for example my row of houses on my parents street all back on to an old abandoned alley owned by the city. Everybody's fence line has extended into it and it has been that way for decades. If some douche at the city wanted to they could come in force everybody to spend a ton of money tearing down fences.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    yep, and the utility district could come dig up my lawn. Easements are easements. If you build on something you don't own, you risk having it destroyed at your cost.

  • ||

    Except that for regular old little people it would have been acquired by adverse possession, which has been common law for centuries and is now statutory law for everyone but the government.

  • edcoast||

    A special place in hell . . .

  • WLC||

    "The bitch sued the city and we lost of jerbs--waa!" Me: "I don't care, off yourself."

    Well, a man can hope.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    And change!

  • Fluffy||

    Instead, she's an unemployed Black woman who gets punished for trying to be self-sufficient instead of willfully putting on the shackles of the welfare-state.

    You know something? I hate to make it about race, but I'm betting this at least partially WAS about race.

    Because if she was a crazy old white lady Guggenheim heir, she could have any kind of goofy "unstructured edibles garden space" she wanted, and as you note she'd get approving plaudits from crunchy-ass Volvo drivers everywhere.

    But if you're a poor black lady from Tulsa, THE EXACT SAME PLANTS IN THE EXACT SAME CONFIGURATION is "untended yard blight".

    "Those niggers, they don't take any pride of ownership in their properties. If we don't cut this Mammy's weeds down, the next thing she'll have a couch on her porch."

    There are people down the street for me who have decorated the yard of their 5000 square foot house with abstract metal sculptures - and that's TOTALLY COOL, because they're white latte drinking doctors. If they were poor black people, if they put the exact same objects in their yard I guarantee you some code officer would say, "Those niggers are storing scrap metal in their yard. HEY SANFORD AND SON! No junk dealers allowed in this here neighborhood!"

  • Spoonman.||

    It's always been my impression that the easiest place to find miserable, bigoted dicks is municipal government.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    It's Tulsa officials, not Tulpa officials.

  • robc||

    Tulsa, Pittsburgh, whats the difference?

  • BakedPenguin||

    You can usually understand people from Tulsa?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Dead fish smell vs. NG refinery smell.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    If you look at the pictures from the news story, it's clear that her garden wasn't "unstructured." She had planters, raised beds, garden edging, etc. I think what got her in trouble was that the garden was in the front of her property. There's a douchebag in every suburban neighborhood who thinks the only thing that should be allowed to be seen from the street is a lawn.

  • BakedPenguin||

    A grass lawn seems pointless to me. I think this woman was right; if you're going to bother with yard work, it might as well feed you.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have a survival garden...well, it's turned more into a hobby farm, myself. However, you have had at least 2 generations of Americans raised with the idea that a house with a lawn is a definitive part of the American Dream. Never mind that the lawn is an apish copy of British home culture, and never mind that in many places in America the soil is not conducive to growing a grass lawn.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I used to live in Manchester, so I know you're putting your work in. That sandy, rocky soil isn't good for much other than apple trees and potatoes.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Indeed. I have 2 apple trees, but yes, the soil sucks for everything else. Fortunately, we compost everything.

  • R C Dean||

    Hell, if you have soil, you're ahead of me.

    What I have is a delightful form of natural concrete: caliche clay packed with rocks.

  • ||

    The only purpose for grass is to graze your sheep and goats. Fuck lawns.

  • R C Dean||

    There's a douchebag in every suburban neighborhood who thinks the only thing that should be allowed to be seen from the street is a lawn.

  • ||

    Because if she was a crazy old white lady Guggenheim heir, she could have any kind of goofy "unstructured edibles garden space" she wanted, and as you note she'd get approving plaudits from crunchy-ass Volvo drivers everywhere.

    Sorry, not biting. The town next to mine had a woman how put together a great floral display. Won an award in town. But it was found to encroach on a public right of way and was removed.

    Neither race nor class was an issue.

    The fight went on for two years.

    Public Works employees have a duty to protect public land from the unauthorized encroachment of private individuals. Sometimes this gets bungled. Sometimes they are too aggressive.

    But I know enough about June White (the woman in the article I linked) to know she thought she was queen shit and that everyone else should bow to her.

    Just another douche.

  • Fluffy||

    Public Works employees have a duty to protect public land from the unauthorized encroachment of private individuals. Sometimes this gets bungled. Sometimes they are too aggressive.

    This case has absolutely nothing to do with encroachment.

  • ||

    That appears to be the case. However, I can't WTFV and there's nothing in the write-up that has the local statists on record detailing their reasoning.

    I'm just saying that I've seen enough anecdotal cases of homeowners thinking they have rights to everything around them that sometimes I'm a bit wary to blindly rally.

    And I've seen enough statist Code Enforcement nazis to make me puke.

    It goes both ways.

  • Fluffy||

    I think the linked Tulsa code makes it pretty clear that they assert the right to control the appearance of all of your property, whether it's encroaching or not.

  • ||

    Look out, Tulpa, you've got someone gunning for your authoritarian bootlicker crown!

  • ||

    RULES ARE RULES

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Sorry, not biting. The town next to mine had a woman how put together a great floral display. Won an award in town. But it was found to encroach on a public right of way and was removed.

    Neither race nor class was an issue.

    You're missing the point. If I'm reading the article correctly, Ms. White got to keep her garden during that two year fight and only had it removed after she was given due process.

    Ms. Morrison didn't get due process before her garden was razed. She may win her court case, but then what? Do you think the city will graciously replant all the plants they destroyed?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    No, but I don't think she'll have to worry about subsistence farming anymore.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I'd be OK with the removal of the part of the garden that encroached on the right of way (if that were indeed the case). But if it straddled the border between private property and the right of way, they shouldn't remove the part on private property.

    And if it were encroaching on the right of way, why isn't the city shouting that from the rooftop?

    Public Works employees have a duty to protect public land from the unauthorized encroachment of private individuals. Sometimes this gets bungled. Sometimes they are too aggressive.

    If indeed their attitude was what the victim claims, it's hard to characterize this as a mere mistake. Their aggression and bungling needs to be tempered by stiff penalties for the illegal destruction of private property on private property.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Wonder how many Democrats are on the Tulsa city council...

  • R C Dean||

    Probably none. Oklahoma is deep, deep red.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    3 Democrats, 6 Republicans currently.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I'm guessing Tulsa's like most urban centers in that it's probably more liberal than the rest of the state. The city seems to alternate between a Democrat and Republican mayor. I know Salt Lake City regularly votes Democrat, which surprised me.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I know Salt Lake City regularly votes Democrat, which surprised me.

    SLC is 22% Hispanic.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yeah, but this particular decision has Team Blue written all over it:

    Virulent disdain for property rights

    The way the lady was told "we don't care"

    Propensity to force people to all be the same

    Yep, smells like liberalism.

  • ||

    Don't be blinded by dem hate: even the cities in Oklahoma are conservative. Sorry, but you can't pin this one on TEAM BLUE unless you're going the California Dem route and blaming everything bad on the party in such a minority as to be almost unable to affect anything.

  • ||

    And as for the "Propensity to force people to all be the same", rich, neighborhoods often have stricter code enforcement because they want everything to look nice all the time.

    Sorry I'm really having a hard time figuring out how you're trying to take something in a republican state, in a republican city (by 6 to 3), and blaming it on democrats.

  • Peter L||

    It is not TEAM BLUE that is doing this, but Team Statist, which happenst to control both TEAM BLUE and TEAM RED in most cases.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Good point, Peter, and I'll have to concede Gojira's point on those rich subdivisions that force everyone to have cookie-cutter homes and yards.

    But I still think some of that Team Blue mentality has seeped into decisions like the one that led to this woman's plight.

    Oh, and Gojira... I hate Team Red, too, just as a reminder.

  • ||

    Thats the Alliance for you: making sure everyone is interfered with or ignored equally.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    I'll bet this woman could raise a lot of dough/help if she went on IndieGoGo or whatever that fundraising site is. That crossing guard who got tormented for ten minutes on the bus has raised over $85,000 for a vacation. I love doing landscaping/gardening/non-office work, and would gladly contribute some cash and weekend time to help rebuild her garden. I mostly hate social networking, but it has some nice organizational potential, especially when used against a tyrannical local government. I guess this was nearly a year ago, though, so she's probably okay now.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    She can't grow a garden to feed herself, but I'm sure Tulsa will have no problem with her getting some food stamps.

  • Paul.||

    So last August, when city inspectors sent the Tulsa resident a letter telling her they wanted the garden to go, she took it up to the local courts, knowing that she was within her legal growing rights. She knew she’d win. Or, at least, that she should’ve won.

    The day after she went to the courthouse, Morrison came home to men chopping down everything in her garden down—walnut trees, garlic chives—you name it, it was gone.

    Government officials aren't stupid. They know very well it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

  • ChrisO||

    We probably spend 80% of our time here arguing about the federal government, but the sad reality is that the biggest encroachments on most people's liberty come from municipal governments. Petty tyrants seem to be the cruelest ones.

  • CE||

    Reminds me of the Orange County (CA) family that tried to do their part to combat the ongoing drought and improve the looks of their home and their street by replacing a water-guzzling lawn with landscaped gravel, rocks and native flowering plants a few years ago. Turns out the city law said 80 percent of your yard had to be grass, so out it went, even though they had the best looking yard on the street.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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