Small acts of defiance have sometimes sparked political infernos. December 1955: seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of the bus and touches off the Montgomery bus boycott. August 1980: electrician Lech Walesa hops a fence at the Gdansk shipyards and goes on to lead a strike that opens a crack that spreads until the Soviet empire collapses. July 2013: marijuana legalization activist John Tracey defies a deputy sheriff’s order to cease petitioning at Cruzan Amphitheatre and…
“The future is unwritten,” said St. Joseph, and at this point it’s a stretch to compare Tracey’s arrest to Parks’ and Walesa’s historic precedents. But as he awaits the disposition of charges of trespass, the ponytailed activist says he has been urged by observers all across the political spectrum to throw his hat in the ring – whatever ring is handy – and run for office.
Tracey told New Times he refused an order to leave the Cruzan parking lot on the evening of his arrest because he believed the First Amendment ensures his right to petition on public land. Cruzan is owned by the South Florida Fair and, by state law, is considered public property. (In an email shortly after the arrest, Tracey wrote us, “The fuck can I trespass on public property?”)
Nothing in the police report of the incident indicates Tracey was disruptive or that any concertgoers complained of his activity. (According to the report, Cruzan employee Raymond Church, who told Tracey to buy a ticket or leave, then blew the whistle on him, stands 6’4″ and weighs 295 lbs. Tracey is listed at 5’9″ and 187 lbs. Tracey’s religion is listed as “all.”) No trial date has yet been set.
Since word of his arrest spread, Tracey told us, he’s “being pushed towards running for local office. By people on all sides of the political spectrum. Libertarians, Greens, Dems, and NPA. I’ll run as a Contrarian, I think.”
In a follow-up message Tracey told us he’s considering a run for the Palm Beach County School Board or the Hypoluxo Development District. He expressed an interest steering those entities into green energy related projects. For the schools, specifically, he suggested vocational training programs “in renewables. School kids building solar panels and turbines, and a small contract to wire it in.”
Tracey knows the ground in retail politics, most recently working as a field organizer and petitioner for Florida’s Water and Land Legacy and National Voter Outreach, in addition to the Florida medical marijuana initiative. His personal history includes a birthright commitment to progressive, anti-authoritarian principles, and years of experience in business. He’s a father of three, “two girls 12 and 14 months, step father to a 12-year old son,” he told us. “It’s why I do everything I do.”
He provided us this capsule bio:
I’ve been going to Anti-War rallies since I was an infant. My parents met while volunteering for Vietnam Veterans against the war, and I met John Kerry while he was still practicing law in Boston. I grew up failed by the School system, tested 98th percentile, but coasted by with Cs. Dropped out the day I turned 16, and got my GED a week later. I went into sales and Finance, saw the mortgage industry imploding in 2002, because my bosses weren’t rejecting files, they were altering them to get approved. We had “Preferred Appraisers” who would nudge a value up for us to get LTV ratios, we would go stated/no-doc to make loans happen. I left the industry after 2 years when I started to understand what this would do to the market. Likewise, in commodities, I left when a client who had limited assets was reloaded into a high risk investment she couldn’t afford to lose… I went into 401k Pension Consulting, and saw much the same thing. Watched as some of our portfolios started to include mortgage backed securities. Left that industry to be a desk jockey for Comcast and a sales guy for Guitar Center. Watched as those companies increased quarterly profits by cutting down on pay for the front end employees. Started to get back involved with politics…I believe the people have the power still, they’ve just forgotten how to use it.
At first, Tracey was amused by the idea of using his arrest as springboard for a run for office. But as more and more folks urged it, the idea has grown on him. You, dear reader, may also think the idea is little more than a prank. Time will tell.
High up in this post we placed a quote from Joe Strummer. We’ll end it with one from Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Fire Ant — an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting — covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact [email protected].