Three farmers, whose tractors were impounded Monday by police, claimed yesterday that, now that they are ready to leave town, they cannot get their tractors back.
D.C. police said yesterday the tractors, which were seized on Constitution Avenue during an allegedly illegal drive around Washington, can be claimed by anyone with proof of ownership.
But Kansas farmer Randy E. Woods, one of the three farmers, said yesterday that a John Deere tractor police seized Monday belongs to a friend back in Kansas who does not have any papers proving his ownership.
"We have no proof that that is our tractor," Woods said. Sam Schmitz, another Kansas farmer who is trying to get the tractors released, said farmers do not travel with ownership reords.
"Hell, I would't know the serial numbers on any of my tractors and i've got seven of them," Schmitz said.
The farmer's lawyer, W. Edward Thompson, failed yesterday to persuade D.C. Superior Court Judge Dyer Justice Taylor to release the tractors.
Outside Taylor's chambers yesterday. Thompson argued that the District's insistence on proof of ownership before releasing the tractors is "just like saying you got to put a license on a mule."
D.C. police said yesterday they would be happy to release the tractors, but that D.C. law requires "satisfactory evidence of ownership," such as registration papers, title or an insurance agreement.
About 300 tractors belonging to members of the American Agriculture Movement remained on the Mall yesterday, according to D.C. police spokesman joseph Gentile. Gentile said that all but 50 tractors are supposed to be off the Mall by the end of the weekend under an agreement reached earlier this week by the protesting farmers and Mayor Marion Barry.
In a separate development, Rep. Henry S. Reuss (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Banking Committee, asked Attorney General Griffin B. Bell yesterday to investigate what role banks and tractor companies may have had in financing the farmers' protest.
Citing published statements by farmers that they were funded by banks and tractor dealerships, Reuss asked Griffin to find out how much money the businesses contributed to the protest and to determine if the businesses can be held responsible for damage to the Mall.