Activist who Removed Confederate Flag in SC is on Terrorist Watch List–for Fishing Without a License
By Nate Thayer
June 27, 2015
One of the two people arrested this morning for taking down the confederate flag flying in front of the South Carolina capitol building is on the U.S. terrorism watch list–apparently for fishing without a license.
James Ian Tyson was arrested along with fellow North Carolinian, fellow political activist Bree Newsome, shortly after 6:00 AM this morning in Charleston, South Carolina.
Tyson, of Charlotte, North Carolina discovered he was on the U.S. terrorist watch list in September, 2012, when he was arrested by Charlotte police on a routine traffic violation–for driving on a revoked license–during that week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
On his Facebook page, James Ian Tyson says he is a carpenter with a “veggie farm.”
Tyson has no idea how he wound up on the government’s terrorist watch list. He just wanted to save the rain forest, he said.
His criminal record consists of fishing for trout out of season without a license and driving while impaired.
But when he was pulled over in 2012, police asked that he be held without bond, according to court documents. The charging officer, when asked “Why do you feel suspect is a risk?” on a bail sheet, wrote: “Known activist + protester who is currently on a terrorist watch list. Request he be held due to DNC being a National Special Security Event.” The political conventions received the designation from the federal Department of Homeland Security.
“They have no reason to have me on that list,” Tyson told the Charlotte Observer newspaper at the time. “I haven’t been arrested for anything else even remotely political. The first arrest was for fishing out of season two days. I messed up, I wasn’t looking at the rules right, I apologized. I’m a dedicated catch and release fisherman. I love fishing and fish is one of my passions.
Tyson’s accomplice in taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina, Bree Newsome, works as the Western Field Organizer for Ignite NC, a North Carolina civil rights organization. She is a classically trained pianist since age seven and a graduate of New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts where she received a BFA in Film & Television.
Terrorism Watch List
On September 4, 2012, during the Democratic National Convention meeting being held in Charlotte, North Carolina, Tyson was pulled over at a routine traffic stop and found to be driving on a revoked license and taken to jail.
But Charlotte police found he was on a U.S. terrorism list and charging officers requested he be held on no bail because “he is a known activist and protester who is currently on a terrorist watch list.”
Bond for driving on a revoked license usually runs between a few hundred dollars to as much as a few thousand dollars. Eventually he was given a $10,000 cash bond. “I have never seen a $10,000 cash bond on any sort of traffic charge as a practicing attorney in this county,” said his lawyer then.
District Attorney Andrew Murray admitted that “a $10,000 bond was not typical for a revoked license charge”, but the fact Tyson was on the Terrorist Watch List “heightens our concern for public safety.”
James Tyson acknowledged he is a Charlotte environmental political activist who has worked with Occupy Charlotte, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Environmental Network.
When he was released from jail in 2012, he said “I have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. I believe this is an attempt to stifle my First Amendment rights and keep my voice from being heard.”
“This was solely politically motivated on the pretext of getting me off the street, pushing me into a cell, and throwing away the key for as long as they possibly could,” Tyson told CNN at the time.
“I firmly believe that Mr. Tyson has been profiled and has been singled out as an organizer, and I believe that the government in this case had the intention of suppressing speech before it was even exercised,” his attorney at the time, Derek Fletcher, said. “I think it’s censorship pure and simple, and I have never seen a $10,000 cash bond on any kind of traffic charge.”
Tyson does not know how he got on the terrorist watch list in the first place.
“Just being on this list alone is really frightening for me. This could potentially affect the rest of my life. And they have no cause, they have no cause to do that at all. Some of the questions that tumble around my head are: ‘Who’s making these lists? Like where’s the accountability? Why am I on this list? Why are other people on this list?’
“And most importantly, probably, ‘How do I get off this list?’ ”
Federal authorities refuse to detail how the list is compiled, or confirm who is on it, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Independent estimates suggest there are as many as 400,000 people on the U.S. terrorism watch list.
After being released from jail in 2012, he said he was no longer interested in protesting during the convention. “At this point, I would like to go home and visit my parents and play with my dog.”