CLEVELAND, Ohio – Frank Wiley for Channel 5 News in Cleveland reports that a local gas station, owned by Abe Ayad, was raided by FBI agents last week because of images Mr. Ayad displayed in his store depicting President Obama and Jesus.
Ayad allowed Channel 5 access to his store’s surveillance camera footage, showing what appear to be around a dozen FBI agents bursting into the store.
The agents are heavily armed with rifles and pistols, and equipped in tactical vests and other gear that one would normally see if agents were executing a high level warrant, or had reason to believe that the suspect posed an armed threat.
However, Ayad was not being charged with any crime, nor was he posing an armed threat to anyone.
Ayad demanded that the FBI show him a warrant. The FBI never produced one for Ayad to see, and was reportedly unwilling to give any comments on the raid.
According to a separate report by Brandon Blackwell for Cleveland.com, FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson confirmed that the agents were executing a warrant, but no further information was provided, and no arrests were made. Still, the FBI chose to seize $1,730 in cash from Ayad’s store safe, along with two 9mm pistols and ammunition, as well as some other items, including a single firework.
Additionally, and according to Ayad, shortly after the raid began agents made their way to the back of his store where they proceeded to shut down his camera system, preventing him from recording the incident any further.
The only thing Ayad appeared “guilty” of was running a “controversial local gas station,” as Channel 5 chose to put it. This theme runs throughout Channel 5’s report, with their headline FBI raids controversial Cleveland store Biggie’s, and the host reiterating several times how “controversial” the storeowner is.
According to the report:
“In April, there were several complaints about a mural at the gas station. Some of the images involve President Obama and Jesus. The city [of Cleveland] told Ayad to shrink the images.”
Presumably, Ayad did not shrink the images. This is also not the first time Ayad says he has been raided like this. Ayad stated:
“[In] 2009 they raided me too. No charges. They gave me back my guns, they kept my money and then they gave me back my money minus [my] coin collection, which was valued over $3 million.”
Ayad stated that he is confident he will not be charged this time as well.
FBI Members Not Responsible For Being Moral Persons, Just Following Orders
Ayad told Channel 5 that he doesn’t put any blame on the FBI because “they are just following orders.”
What was never investigated during the course of the Channel 5 report was how Ayad’s decision to put certain images in his store constituted a crime.
Regardless of how “controversial” those images may have been, this side steps the issue that whether an image is objectionable or not is subjective.
Some people obviously did not like Ayad’s mural, hence the complaints to the city; but it is evident that the majority of his customers either appreciated the imagery or did not care one way or another.
Further, Ayad was indeed, running a store and it is his store. If some customers found his mural “controversial,” why did they simply not take their business elsewhere?
Why were law enforcement called in at all, and why at such a top tier, i.e. FBI tactical units?
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