Breaking: Middletown Woman Chains Herself to Courthouse in Civil Disobedience

April chained to tree

April Fawn Scheller, a Middletown woman, member of Wesleyan Students for Disability Rights, and former employee at the Red and Black Cafe, has chained herself to a tree in front of the Middletown courthouse in protest of human rights abuses against people with psychiatric disabilities  She seems to have a small gaggle of supporters surrounding her holding signs and chalking messages on the pavement. According to a press release, Scheller wants to “end mental apartheid.” Her grievances include “discrimination through the insane defense, involuntary detention, and forced electroshock therapy.” Some students might remember Scheller from her “madpride presentation” on campus last March, 2012.

Scheller’s full statement can be seen on her website.

UPDATE: Reports state that Scheller has now been surrounded by police.

UPDATE: Threats that she is on state property, subject to arrest.

UPDATE 2:01 pm: Eyewitness says, “A number of cops showed up, 10 or 15. They asked us to move off the property, and all of us agreed except for April. They brought out some huge bolt cutters, but they didn’t use them. For a while they mostly just milled around.  and talked. One of them was on the phone with a superior for a while. Then one of their superiors came out of the courthouse wearing a suit and spoke with the other cops, telling them to leave her. All the cops slowly left the area, we moved back onto the lawn, and April remains chained to the tree. It doesn’t seem like they are going to do anything more.

UPDATE 2:11 pm: Reports that CBS3 is on the scene.

UPDATE 2:41 pm: Middletown Patch has arrived, along with Channel 8.

UPDATE 3:13 pm: Middletown Press has dispatched a photographer to the scene.

UPDATE 5:41 pm: April remains chained to the tree outside the courthouse. Many passersby have expressed support and solidarity. She has been accompanied on and off throughout the day by a rolling contingent of supporters. The police are no longer present or making threats. It appears that they are letting her remain on the property for now, although there is no indication that this won’t change in the near future.

UPDATE 6:23 pm: April expresses gratitude to those who have been offering her support and solidarity over the course of the day, both online and elsewhere.

UPDATE 8:00 pm: April has unchained herself and left the courthouse unharmed on her own volition.

14 thoughts on “Breaking: Middletown Woman Chains Herself to Courthouse in Civil Disobedience

  1. David

    April, your awesome! Please always have ON SIGHT support and EYE witnesses! My praise to all of you who kept visual those who showed their support and wisdom that was used inside the court house to respect her civil rights. Not all those in position of (keeping the peace) do what is right by God OR law. Both locally and nationally we are seeing UNACCEPTABLE ACTIONS. People are getting together and funds are being put aside to pursue any injustice especially those that results in injury or arrest or involuntary admittance to any hospital or institution. OUR EYES ARE OPEN, AND WE ARE MOBILE! ALL of you who support her, do your part to keep her safe, BE THERE! Keep going April! THANK YOU!

  2. April Fawn Scheller

    Hi,

    I
    really wanted to express my appreciation to the numerous students and others who
    helped me yesterday, it was really safer to do what I did with help that was
    watching over what happened otherwise I might have gotten locked up in a ward
    again. I wanted to make sure you know I really appreciate you.

    Instead,
    I went home around 8pm. Visited the girl’s room, ate, and fell asleep. I was a
    little shaky waking up but most of the elastic sensations in my muscles calmed
    down it seemed to help to be walking around.

    I
    know that the public was really affected and that people were always coming or
    driving by to express support for our action. Believe it or not that included
    persons as diverse as a public defender, the driver of a judicial marshal truck
    and a rape survivor who saw the news. Mindfreedom Alaska and perhaps PsychRights
    is interested in seeing coverage of the protest if anyone has video and I think
    it is a good effective form of protest because we had an even more amazing
    amount of public interaction than press interaction.

    I’m
    also glad we took every precaution to keep things unannounced even to press
    until the last minute so that we got access to there in the first place. Some
    who ordered me to leave and brought bright red bolt cutters obviously wanted to
    force me but the public congregating nearby and the press investigating from
    tips that the students called in at the last minute seemed to sway them not
    to… and eventually we learned that now the press reports that some judge had
    ordered me left alone as the protest was not a nuisance. This establishes some judicial
    precedent maybe for this kind of action tolerated? Well, that is what we were
    hoping for in keeping it under wraps! But people still need to be VERY careful
    and make sure they have a lot of SUPPORT on and off the scene. At the end of
    the day when the protest was drawing to a close there were only two of us left,
    we encountered more police driving by on a night shift that hadn’t heard
    anything and were coming to question us over our right to be there. A third
    protester was already parking his car and coming to unlock me at that late stage
    so letting the questioning build to a challenge at that point would have been
    pretty anticlimactic to the support we had got throughout the day and diffuse
    our victory. Knowing this we informed them of the press coverage, of being
    given permission to stay as long as we wanted after being asked to leave, and
    informed them that we were about to go home anyway.

    If
    someone wants to repeat this action locally or elsewhere I believe it needs to
    be in as much safety and support as such individual could possibly get. I think
    it is helpful if only one person chains themselves at a time, especially if you
    don’t have money for a lot of legal aid, as while helpful for growing advocacy
    each case is also a potential drain on existing advocacy systems. Also
    prevention steps are much safer than having to try to help yourself when
    helpless. I had insurance releases for protected health information pre-signed
    to trusted advocates and the documentation deposited with them so that
    advocates and activists could gain access to knowledge of my whereabouts by law
    just in case of ambulance abduction. I also attended a workshop by R.I.S.E.
    (Students of Color Resisting Imprisonment for a Safer Extistence) on the
    Wesleyan campus to become better acquainted with my Miranda protections, and
    spoke to a fellow activist and Wesleyan grad Paul Blasenheim who had been
    jailed in civil disobedience to learn what I could about the incarceration and
    arraignment process.

    I
    think it also diffused the situation for the cops somewhat that I said I’d
    rather be arrested and retain legal status, they are used to using the standard
    threat of arrests to intimidate protestors and didn’t seem to know how to
    handle a protest in which both an arrest and even more so psych detention would
    have been politically a problem for them. To be arrested for a good cause, like
    M.L.K. had been would be good for the fight for legal status for someone like
    me, to be detained in a psych hospital would be a demonstration of the state’s
    repression of harmless free thought and speech. For most of the millions of
    Americans who suffer this kind of retaliation for peaceable free expression the
    harmless difference wasn’t even political… it’s just being different in your
    every day lifestyle.

    I very much want to thank everyone for making this possible and I’ll extend an
    invitation to come to general assembly in Spear Park at 5pm tonight! I was very
    inspired by the support we had from those who live in the Wesleyan neighborhood
    of our community, as well as persons wandering through the neighborhood or
    honking from the free-way.

    Mad
    Love & Gratitude,

    April Fawn

    If you are in the area today there is a social justice event at Middlesex College starting at 2:30pm and there will be general assembly at Spear Park at 5pm in honor of May Day, that is International Worker’s Day! Hope everyone has a great end of semester and a lot of summer fun!

  3. A friend

    April’s warm heart and commitment to her activist work is a great example to all of us.

      1. Chile

        Students and a few other middletown residents have stopped by throughout the day, so April has never been alone. She is doing well, and thankful for the support.

        Press have been showing up periodically. There is no police presence as of now, but one very nice public defender did stop to express her support!

        If you haven’t been by yet, definitely head over in the next couple hours.

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