Sometimes the best way to tell an enormous story is with a few spare details. The big story is Queensland’s Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act of 2013 or as everyone calls it the VLAD law. Like Vlad the Impaler. The spare detail is a guy named Ben Wilson.
Wilson (in the photo above) is a concrete mason in Brisbane and a friend of a member of the Rebels Motorcycle Club named Darryl Cook. Cook had leased a commercial building that his club used as a clubhouse. The Queensland government ordered the clubhouse closed and decreed that it was a “proscribed place,” a place no Rebel was allowed to enter. Cook, who was stuck with the lease, decided to turn it into a retail store called 12-Gauge Clothing. His wife would manage the place. And since Cook couldn’t legally enter the building he asked his friend Wilson to paint over the Rebels insignia outside and refurbish the interior for him.
The store was scheduled to open last December 8. Three policemen visited the store the previous morning, questioned Wilson and two other people who were working there, then left them alone for the rest of the day.
Wilson was there the next day for the grand opening. So were 30 cops. Wilson and some other volunteers set up a bounce house. The police searched it. They also searched a charitable booth the men had set up inside. Police demanded to see Wilson’s drivers license. When they discovered it had expired three days before they cited Wilson even though he was standing on a sidewalk at the time. Then Wilson went back to selling tee-shirts inside the store.
Police arrested Wilson as soon as a television news crew arrived. He was charged with being an associate of the Rebels, a forbidden organization, and walking into a prescribed place.
Police then searched Wilson’s home for proof of the accusation that he was a Rebels’ associate. They found a Confederate flag that Wilson, a Dukes of Hazard fan, had purchased on eBay. The flag is now the principal evidence against Wilson.
He made his initial appearance in a Brisbane Court 11 days later, wearing the clothes he had on when he was arrested, and he was denied bail. Wilson has been in jail since then. Unable to work to pay his bills, he has lost his car, motorcycle, his home and most of his furnishings. His girlfriend and his two children have moved in with her parents.
Under the VLAD law, Wilson faces a mandatory sentence of six months in solitary confinement.
Wilson hasn’t yet raised the money he needs to hire a lawyer. His girlfriend, Ashley Metcalf, has started a Facebook page to solicit donations for his defense. You can find the page here.