Local twist to Fla. case

Columbia activist is arrested for trying to take Schiavo water
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:00 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Columbia woman attempting to take water to Terri Schiavo was arrested Tuesday afternoon outside Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., for trespassing.

According to Miami Herald reporter Erika Bolstad, a crowd of about 100 protesters watched as Columbia activist Lana Jacobs, 56, was handcuffed and escorted away by officers from the Pinellas Park Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department at 1:45 p.m. EST. Jacobs was charged with trespassing after warning, a misdemeanor in Florida. She was taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where her bond was set a $250. She posted bond about 7:45 p.m. EST.

“It wasn’t a big deal, what happened to me,” Jacobs said in a telephone interview. “It’s a big deal what’s happening to Terri. I couldn’t not do what I did.”

Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was removed by court order Friday, has not been given food or water for five days.

Bolstad said Jacobs attempted to cross a police line and enter the hospice while carrying a bottle of water. Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies had been alerted to Jacob’s intentions beforehand and formed a line to prevent her entry.

“If I had to describe it, I would say it was an organized act of civil disobedience,” said John Pendygraft, a photographer for the St. Petersburg Times, who took photos of Jacobs being arrested.

Pendygraft described the scene as one of relative calm, calling the episode “a very orderly type of thing.”

Jacobs’ daughter Heather De Mian was there with her mother.

“She can’t just stop by and watch a woman be murdered,” De Mian told the Miami Herald on Tuesday. “She just felt compelled to do what her conscience told her to do.”

De Mian, 34, is also an activist. De Mian, who uses a wheelchair and suffers from vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and a chronic stomach disorder, lobbies for the rights of the disabled with a group called Not Dead Yet.

Jacobs said that she violated the police warning because she could not “stand by and watch someone be tortured and murdered.”

Jacobs is known in Columbia for her work with Loaves and Fishes, a soup kitchen, and St. Francis House, a homeless shelter. She and her husband, Steven Jacobs, have protested at myriad situations, such as capital punishments, including the execution of Stanley Hall in Potosi last week. They also protested against the panhandling law in Columbia. Steven Jacobs spent a year in prison in 2000 after protesting against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga.

“We are in a country where it’s legal to kill people,” Lana Jacobs said. “We have to break those unjust laws in order to save lives.”

Lana Jacobs said that she was treated well and everyone was respectful.

“The police were nice and kind; they were just doing their job,” said Lana Jacobs, who said the police are “pawns” that are used by government powers. “(The police) are used by those who do evil … those who cause the pain. They will never have to look Terri in the face.”

Lana Jacobs and De Mian traveled from Columbia to be at the federal courthouse in Tampa on Monday to protest the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore refused an appeal by Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to have their daughter’s feeding tube reinserted.

Bolstad said Lana Jacobs and her daughter held aloft a homemade banner, made from two PVC pipes and a full-size white sheet sprayed in blood-red paint that read “Stop Killing.”

“Killing is wrong, period,” Lana Jacobs said. “I care about this because I’m a mother.”

Lana Jacobs did not know how long she planned to remain in Florida. Her departure depends on the fate of Terri Schiavo.

“If they put the feeding tube back in the morning, I’m on my way home tomorrow,” she said. “I’ve got Easter dinner to prepare for homeless people.”

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