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December 8, 2001
If You Don't Want American Flag Stamps, Watch Out!
Even an innocuous trip to the Post Office can you get you into trouble these days.
Daniel Muller, is the co-coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, a group dedicated to nonviolence and a leading opponent of U.S. sanctions against Iraq.
On November 9, Muller and his colleague Andrew Mandell went to pick up stamps at the Chicago post office they regularly visit. They were paying with cash.
"We needed 4,000 stamps for a mailing we were doing, and I asked for ones not with the American flag on them."
The woman asked if Statute of Liberty stamps were OK.
"Yes, we love liberty," said Andrew Mandell.
"She asked us to step aside from the counter, and she went to the back, out of view," recalls Muller. "I knew something was up because this was a bit out of the ordinary. And Andrew said, 'She's calling the cops,' but I didn't believe him.
"No one said anything to us for about twenty minutes, and then two cops came in and asked for our IDs. They asked if we had any outstanding warrants. They ran a check on us. They asked us why we had asked for stamps without American flags on them. I said we're very rooted in nonviolent activities, and we would rather have the Statue of Liberty than the American flag."
The Post Office told Muller and Mandell that they would have to come back the next morning for stamps.
Mandell got his stamps the next day, but he also was asked to meet with a federal postal inspector for more than a half-hour. The postal inspector, says Mandell, asked: "Why are you paying with cash? Where do you get your money?"
Afterwards, the group was permitted to send out its mailing.
"The fact that they did ask for anything but flag stamps did raise a question for the clerk," says Silvia Carrier, a public relations officer for the U.S. Postal Inspector in Chicago. Plus, "They were buying postage with a large amount of cash, and usually a company will use a meter or a business check. Right now, since September 11, clerks have been told to be cautious, to be looking out for anything suspicious."