A Tale of Americana, Part I: Jennifer Jones

Night had just fallen when I pulled off of the I-10 at exit 19 and into the rural town of Quartzsite. My arrival was immediately preceded by a monsoon storm typical of the Arizona desert in mid-July; the intense wind and rain lasts for about fifteen minutes yet leaves behind the sort of inconvenient destruction that can only occur in an environment totally unequipped for anything but it’s usual dry and sunny climate. On that particular Sunday evening it had knocked down the power lines, cloaking the little desert town in a veil of darkness which only added to the surreality of the story playing out right before my eyes, a story which actually begins not days nor weeks but years ago….  Since the Arco truck stop right off exit 19 was the only place in town with working electricity, it had become the informal meeting spot for the town’s citizens, shining brightly in what was otherwise a seemingly endless black night.

Originally established by settler Charles Tyson in 1856 and known in that day as Tyson’s Wells, Quartzsite is now the epitome of a “market town“. Up to a million snowbirds travel through the little town of thirty six square miles every year, mostly during the months of January and February. Like most of the town’s residents, the visitors are typically senior citizens who park their RV’s in one of the lots of which the town is mainly comprised. There are roughly a dozen major shows and swap meets which occur during this short time period; a large percentage centered around gems, minerals and precious metals, and this rural dwelling becomes a center of bustling camaraderie and commerce. By July however most Quartzsite residents have abandoned ship and there are only about a thousand people who remain to brave the stiflingly hot weather and capricious political atmosphere. Located in La Paz County, Quartzsite is governed by an elected mayor and town council of six along with appointed officials which include a town manager, town attorney, town engineer, magistrate, clerk, and police chief. Disputes between the town’s government and it’s citizens date as far back as it’s incorporation in 1989.

The first thing that struck me about Jennifer Jones was her sharp understanding of both law and philosophical concepts of liberty; she is very well spoken and obviously well read.  When I ask to see a copy of the Desert Freedom Press, a local newspaper that she writes, edits, prints, and distributes all on her own time and on her own dime, she holds one up, smiles for the camera, and says “You can’t put a price on truth and you can’t put a price on freedom.  You can’t even put a price on the Desert Freedom Press because it’s always free, one per customer”.  She is one of those individuals whom it’s impossible not to like; open, direct, and genuine.  Jones, an avid dog enthusiast and show judge for the All American Dog Registry, moved to Quartzsite a dozen years ago when a friend suggested it would be a good venue for her mobile dog grooming business.  She originally came for a ten week visit and enjoyed herself so much it led to longer stays.  Quartzsite eventually became her home, especially when she met and married her husband Jack, a longtime resident.  She lived and worked with zero incidence, not even so much as a parking ticket, for the better part of the following decade.  It was purely by accident that in April of ’08, Jennifer Jones took on the fight of a lifetime.

The season was in the death throes of it’s yearly cycle and she was in the bounds of her rented area at the swap meet where she had her trailer parked; like everyone else, she and her husband both live and work on location during the busy months of the season.  She watched, dumbfounded, as the town code enforcement officer showed up out of nowhere with police in tow and began to harass her neighbor.  Annoyed that she was watching, he approached Jones on his way out and told her that she couldn’t operate a kennel at the swap meet.  He left after she asked to see the corresponding ordinance, but unbeknown to her he then proceeded straight to town hall, revoked her vendors license, and without even a single warning called county animal control and told them she was operating on a revoked license and that her animals were endangered.  The animal control inspector immediately showed up at Jones’ home and demanded she allow him to inspect the premises.  When she insisted he first present her with a warrant, he called the police for backup.  Although they had no warrant, they entered her home in spite of her protests that because the animal control inspector had just come from the shelter where disease was rampant, his very presence was putting her prized dogs, which included a brand new litter of puppies, at risk of disease.  Upon his departure, the inspector issued her a ticket for operating without a county kennel license even though she was not required to have one by law.  Jones fought her case and won but only after being dragged through piles of bureaucracy as though it were manure; the fact that she was right angered those who were wrong, and she emerged with the brand of “troublemaker” newly bestowed upon her.

“Either we make you a deal, or we make you leave” is the town mantra, says Jones.  She and her husband both said that many winter vendors have stopped coming to Quartzsite due to the hardships forced upon them by the town bureaucrats.  Throughout the following season, she was plagued by anonymous complaints that her dogs were barking.  She says those complaints were false, and indeed her dogs had not bothered anyone at all at any time in an entire decade prior.  Around the same time (2009 season), her place was broken into by a neighbor and so she moved shop over to the other side of town, but the problems continued.  She claims that she was under surveillance by Police Chief Jeff Gilbert, who allegedly recruited the property manager from another location belonging to the same owner to spy on and harass her and was even present when this manager cut the water line to her grooming shop.  Then, Gilbert went around canvassing her neighbors at the swap meet, asking if her or her husband were troublemakers and if they used drugs.  In the following months, she recieved numerous visits from strange individuals; one even showed up and blatantly asked to buy some drugs (Jones has no history of any drug related activity whatsoever).  The complaints against her kept right on coming, but when Jones filed open records requests the city couldn’t produce any of the related reports.  In fact, she received a letter from the chief of police stating that if police had to write reports they wouldn’t have time to do their job; a letter which she made public by reading it aloud at the next council meeting.

Thus, the game of cat and mouse not only continued but intensified as the months wore on.  Alex Taft was appointed to the position of town manager around the end of the year, and it was early 2010 when Ed Foster began his campaign for mayor.  The booths were set up at the swap meet to accommodate the high point of the season, and for many townspeople including Jack and Jennifer Jones, their booths doubled as a display of political support.  Signs supporting Ed Foster for Mayor prominently decorated the front of Casa de Jones.  One morning they were having coffee and walking their dogs when they noticed a red truck pull up.  Three people, one of them the standing mayor, got out of the truck and began putting their own campaign signs in front of the Jones’ Ed Foster signs.  Jack Jones grabbed his camera and was filming the incident when Police Chief Gilbert pulled up and started chatting with Mayor Huntley.  Upon seeing him standing there, Gilbert demanded to see his ID and when Jones turned around to go in and get it, he was knocked to the ground and taken out by police.  For his wife, this was the last straw.  She not only founded the Desert Freedom Press to educate the community about the gross injustice happening all around them but also filed a civil lawsuit against the town of Quartzsite.  The situation has gotten progressively worse ever since; at 45 years of age Jennifer Jones had no arrest record until November of 2010.  Since then she has been arrested four times.  Her last arrest occurred at a council meeting on Tuesday, June 28th of this year.  She was brutally dragged out of the meeting by Quartzsite police over the objections of Mayor Ed Foster after it was determined by the council that her attempt to address the town was out of order.  The entire incident was caught on video and went viral on You Tube; it was viewed over 40,000 times during the forthcoming week.  Alternative media all over the Internet were reporting on the rise of the Fourth Reich in Quartzsite, AZ and Jones was even interviewed on the popular Internet based program Infowars.  Upon my arrival the following Sunday, the town had just been declared to be in a “state of emergency” by the council due to all of the attention.

I met Jennifer Jones, Mayor Ed Foster, La Paz County Republican Precinct Chairman Michael Roth (who had been arrested at the council meeting the week before Jones), and many more members of the Quartzsite crew that night at the Arco.  They welcomed me warmly; I got the feeling that they were genuinely grateful someone cared enough about their plight to pay them a special visit and they were more than happy to talk.  Their sense of community was quite apparent, something that is sadly lacking in the average metropolitan city.  The people of Quartzsite are simple folk; they came here precisely to get out of the city, enjoy some peace and quiet, and to pursue their own happiness.  Many are retired and chose to buy an RV and move here instead of buying a condo and moving to Florida.  They could be your parents or grandparents.  They care deeply about their little town and as I chatted with them it struck me that these are true Americans and this is rural America fighting for it’s right to individual existence.  What is happening in Quartzsite is a small scale model of what is happening throughout the country.

Since the violation of one individual’s rights equals the violation of all individual rights, lessons learned in small town America could potentially strengthen us all.  “Most people will run and hide when the chips are down.  We rally for each other and we stand together in opposition to this kind of tyranny” Jones tells me.  “It’s not like I have done anything wrong that made me a target; nor has my husband.  We’ve never bothered anybody, we’ve done good work, we’ve contributed to the community.  If they would do this to us they would do it to anybody”.  She is glad that the issue is finally getting the national attention it deserves and her greatest hope is that no one else has to endure the same misfortunes at the hands of Quartzsite’s corrupt.

“This stops here, it stops with me, and it stops now.”

Perhaps if the individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be restored to one small desert town there just might be a chance for the rest of us.


Part II of my Quartzsite experience coming soon….

Quartzsite In Season

Quartzsite In Season

5 comments to A Tale of Americana, Part I: Jennifer Jones

  • Paul

    Very interesting!
    Here is another “tale of americana” :

  • lastmanstanding

    Millions of regular people will soon be putting an end to his shit.

    If you have to ask why and how then you haven’t understood a single thing on this site.

    Here is an alternate to review…The United States Constitution.

  • Kelly James

    @Paul: That’s a great article; I really, really like the writings of William Grigg.

    @lastmanstanding: at the risk of making myself sound ignorant, I must ask what exactly it is you mean? Whose shit, Police Chief Jeff Gilbert’s? If so, yes his shit certainly needs to end…but you seem to be operating from the assumption that the problem begins and ends with him or any one individual for that matter.

    I understand enough to know that getting millions of Americans to take any one action at this point in time is damn near impossible…which is why we’re all here if I’m not mistaken.

    I’ve certainly reviewed the Constitution but not to my own satisfaction nor apparently to yours. Perhaps one day soon I’ll remedy that issue :-)

  • The most encouraging part of the whole Jennifer Jones saga is that some of the police have agreed that the situation is out of control. I am always most alarmed when police totally stonewall and cover up egregious behavior on the part of one of their own.

  • Country Codger

    Great article. Unfortunately this is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Can’t wait for part II. It may be time for a John Ross solution. (A wink is as good as a nod to a thoroughbred, ’nuff said.)

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