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ARTICLES & STORIESFATHERS DAY 2000: Fathers Go To Washington!
WHY IS DADDY IN JAIL?: For the Crime of Wanting To See His Child
RELATED PHOTOSRALLY PHOTOS: Last Years March On Washington DC
PROUD PAPA PHOTOS: Greg Romeo's Pride & Joy
LOST BOY: The Plight of Elian & Juan
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F.A.R.C.E.: Fathers Awareness of Rights and Custody Equality
RICHMOND VIRGINIA SUPPORTFAMILY@RICHMOND.NET: Family Resolution Council
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METRO MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2000
For Some Fathers, a Day to Protest
By Chris Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Ken Yolman came from the Virgin Islands seeking words of comfort. Heather Smiler drove from Brooklyn to support her brother who says he hasn't seen his daughter in 10 months. Richard Brooke, from Chicago, said he just wanted to talk with other fathers who have struggled to see their children after a messy divorce.
They were among nearly 100 people gathered in front of the Capitol yesterday as part of FathersDay2000," an effort to support the tens of thousands of dads nationwide who, organizers say, are kept from participating in the rearing of their children.
Wearing shirts that read: "I'm Not Just A Pay Check," "Dead Beat or Beat Dead?!" and "Time to Change the System," dozens of men, some carrying young children on their shoulders, rallied across from the White House, then marched down Constitution Avenue to the Capitol in the early afternoon heat, calling for new laws to protect their rights as caregivers.
"There are fathers out there who have had it," said Greg Romeo, an aircraft mechanic from Nashville and a march co-organizer. "We are tired of not being treatedright by family court judges and caseworkers and being deprived of our rights to help raise our children."
Many were divorced fathers, some still locked in lengthy
custody battles. They came with new families and old friends and talked, sometimes through cracked
voices and falling tears, about their experiences navigating family courts.
Yesterday's event marked the third time the march's organizers have gathered at the Capitol. The event has grown each year since the first rally, arranged by David Wilson, a longtime fathers rights activist and a landscaper in Cocoa Beach, Fla. But unlike last month's "Million Mom March," or 1997's Promise Keepers rally, both of which drew tens of thousands, yesterday's gathering was subdued. Many marchers said while there are hundreds of small groups advocating for fathers, they lack a consolidated network. But the marchers, some of whom came from as far away as St. Paul, Minn., and Santa Fe, N.M., seemed mostly buoyed by the experience.
"For a long time I thought I was the only person who was going through these kinds of problems in the courts," said Matt Schuzer, who traveled with his wife and stepdaughter from Lexington, Ky. "But just knowing there are other fathers out here makes the trip worth it."
FathersDay2000 was put together to act as an umbrella for all of the Fathers and Childrens rights groups that are scattered throughout the country. All of us need to unite in our efforts to put the Fathers back into the lives of their children.
There are many groups, and there are many ideas and suggestions as to what needs to be done. While we all have different ideas, all of us need to focus on what is best and what is necessary for the best interest of our children.
Our main goal for Fathers Day 2000, is to bring a much needed spotlight to the problems our youth face today due to Fatherlessness in our country. Take a moment and reflect on the importance of Fathers Day 2000 and make an effort to take to the streets of Washington DC.
It is time for everyone in this country to take a stand and help put the Father back in Fatherhood.
They camped out for four days earlier this month on the east steps of the United States Capitol to draw attention to their plight. They are separated and divorced fathers who believe they have gotten raw deals from their ex-wives and family court judges.
"The non-custodial parent is the walking dead," Gregory Romeo said last week after he returned to Lake Charles from D.C. His two sons, ages 4 and 5, live with their mother near Dallas. "You only live and survive with the hope you can get (your children) back. That's the only thing that keeps you going."
Romeo, 44, is a quality assurance inspector doing contract work on the J-STARS aircraft. When he's not on the job, he's online in his local motel room, where he networks with distraught dads around the world.
Romeo's Web site -- members.aol.com/gromeo747/5050.html -- has 69 links. Titles include "FARCE (Fathers Awareness of Rights and Custody Equality)," "Parental Alienation Syndrome," "Dads Against Discrimination in Tennessee" and "Women for Fatherhood."
The title of Romeo's site is "50/50." He wants custody and child support split in half, with allowances made for income differences. Fathers, he believes, now pay too much child support while not getting a fair shake in custody decisions and visitation rights.
"We want our damn constitutional rights," he said.
Before he began fielding nearly 50 e-mails a day, Romeo led a bachelor life that many dads would envy. After graduating from high school in Michigan, he did lighting and pyrotechnics for Styx, Bob Seger, REO Speedwagon and other rock acts.
He left that to join the Marines for four years, then learned to build planes with Boeing. After getting laid off, he went back on the road as a tour bus driver for Johnny Winter and Robert Plant, among others.
"Excellent lifestyle for a single guy," he said. "I was out on tour with Garth Brooks when my folks called me up to let me know that my cousin in Marietta, Ga., couldn't produce a man-child to carry on the family name. That left all that pressure on my children.
"If anything happens to me, that name dies with me. So I became real adamant about wanting to father a child.
"I thought, Geez, maybe finding Miss Right would be better if I stayed in one place longer. So I came off tour and got back into aviation. Well, I ended up finding Miss Wrong."
He met her at a nightclub in Waco, Texas, in 1992. He did pyro for the band; she hung around the band.
He now waits for the divorce to be final.
In 1997, when Romeo worked in Savannah, Ga., his wife left with the boys. "She just grabbed the kids one day, picked up and went off," he said.
That led him to the Internet to look for men in similar situations.
"A lot of them find (the Internet) a good place to vent," he said. "They get it off their chest so they can stabilize their minds and get on with their everyday lives."
Romeo found David Wilson of Cocoa Beach, Fla., who runs a lawn business named Kiss My Grass. Together, they organized the Father's Day demonstration in D.C.
More than a hundred men showed up at one time or another from June 18 through 21, but only five guys were mainstays. They held signs that read "Kids Need Dads."
Romeo patrolled the sidewalk in front of the White House. He talked with tourists, both adults and students. One girl broke into tears as she talked about her dad.
Romeo didn't sleep much in Washington. He took catnaps in a nearby hotel or on a beach chair on the Capitol steps. When he woke up, he went in search of lawmakers.
He walked into the office of Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and told his staff, "This is a warning shot to the nation that the fathers are starting to gather. We will amass and we will be back."
Romeo said he has spoken with women who disagree with the cause, but he hasn't gotten as much flak as he expected. A dissenting voice is Gloria Woods, president of Michigan's chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW).
"Michigan NOW opposes forced joint custody for many reasons: it is unworkable for uncooperative parents; it is dangerous for women and their children who are trying to leave or have left violent husbands/fathers; it ignores the diverse, complicated needs of divorced families; and it is likely to have serious, unintended consequences on child support," Woods wrote. Legislation was proposed in Michigan that would impose joint custody on parents who are in conflict over custody.
Romeo said there are bad dads and good dads just like there are bad moms and good moms. When he meets fathers separated from their children, he knows what they're going through.
"You can just look into their eyes and pretty much tell," he said. "You see the wear and tear that's been done on their soul."
He's already planning for next year's camp-out in D.C. The dads have permits to gather near the Reflecting Pool and the Ellipse in addition to being on the Capitol steps and in front of the White House again.
Sonny Marks' column runs on Sundays and Tuesdays. Have a story idea about someone in Southwest Louisiana? Call him weekdays at 494-4066. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abraham Lincoln had it right!
This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it.
First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861 (1809-1865)
If this child was not going to be immediately reunited with his Father, then he should have been placed in a qualified foster home, pending any formal court hearing. Placing this child with relatives (he had never met) was perhaps the 2nd biggest mistake that was made in this matter.
The point everyone seems to forget, is that this child has a father, and Juan Miguel Gonzalez (up until his sons kidnapping) had been caring for his son on a daily basis. Although many people in our country dislike Fidel Castro and the way he presides over the people of Cuba. All of us have to understand that this child has an extended family in Cuba and should have been returned to his Father.
Last year I watched several shows that did a story concerning a mother whose children had been taken to another country by her ex-husband. This mother has been unsuccessful in having them returned. So I ask, how does anyone think we can even begin to enforce the custodial rights of a parent here in our country, when we have failed so miserably with regards to Juan Gonzalez' rights.
The only good thing that I can say about this entire matter, is that Juan Gonzalez is not a USA citizen. For if he were, his chances of getting custody of his son would fall close to nothing. There are Fathers across "our" country that have not been able to see their children for months, and for some, haven't seen their children for years.
In a AP (Associated Press) article several years ago, Vice President Al Gore said, "Fathers who don't pay child support aren't the only deadbeat dads. There is such a thing as an emotional deadbeat dad," Gore continued to say...." too many men step away from the most important role that any of us will ever play in life..... that of protector, mentor and nurturer of the next generation.
If we do not enforce the rights of Juan Gonzalez and return his son, then we open the door for many more kidnappings by non-custodial parents. Only this time, the next one clinging to an inner tube may not be alive.
Please note.... I can fax the AP article to confirm the remarks made above.
Please send any comments concerning this letter to:
David Wilson email@example.com --
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