People in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia will remember Marc Petitpierre as the political activist who would ride his Segway all over town.
Petitpierre lived in Berkeley Springs for fourteen years from 1991 to 2005, when a divorce forced a move to Martinsburg.
In Martinsburg, Petitpierre held jobs at McDonald’s, Sheetz, FedEx and elsewhere.
But his main focus was on political activism.
When in 2016, Trump ran for President, Petitpierre saw danger for the nation.
Soon after Trump was elected, Petitpierre took to Martinsburg Town Square where during lunch hour he would wave signs for an hour.
Most of the signs condemned Trump.
Only a few days after the 2016 election, Petitpierre took to the Square with the first sign that red: Trump is Not Legit.
And then Petitpierre took to the square almost every day for almost three years with signs expressing Petitpierre’s anti-Trump disgust — Trump is Off the Wall, Trump is a Chump, Bernie Beats Trump. (Many of Petitpierre’s signs are still up at his Facebook page.)
Then in August 2019, there was a parking dispute. Petitpierre got a $5 parking ticket that was timed at 1:10 pm. In fact, parking was allowed at the meter until 3 pm, Petitpierre said.
The following week, Petitpierre went to the magistrate’s office to contest the ticket. It was only $5, but it was a matter of principle. He was legally parked. The magistrate told him to go to the parking office and see if they would drop it. He went to the parking office and came across the parking officer who gave him the ticket.
“She wouldn’t let me speak,” Petitpierre said. “So I put my finger on my lips and then pointed my finger at her as if to say – be quiet, let me speak.”
“She called the police and said that I threatened to shoot her.”
“The people in the parking authority clearly didn’t like that I was protesting against Trump. Next thing I know I’m arrested and charged with harassment or intimidation of a public official. I was thrown into the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg. I was in for five weeks. They wanted me to plead guilty to the charge. I wanted a trial. I wanted out on bail. But I was told that I couldn’t get bail because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had put a hold on it.”
“My lawyer cut a deal with the authorities so that if I plead no contest to the charge and paid the $5 fine, they would release me,” Petitpierre said. “I agreed. But they never released me.”
Instead of releasing him, Petitpierre was turned over to ICE officials who transported him to an ICE detention center in York, Pennsylvania. He was there from October 1, 2019 until February 15 or so of this year.
In total, he was in prison for more than six months.
All because of a $5 parking ticket?
Friends have put up a GoFundMe page to help Petitpierre pay past legal and other expenses.
According to the GoFundMe post, here is the deal with his citizenship in a nutshell.
“Marc left Switzerland when he was 3 years old, then first came to United States in 1958. His father was an expert in the electrical engineering field of naval propulsion and became a consultant for the Navy. As such, both parents had to become naturalized citizens of the United States. Marc, being so young when he came here, was entitled to become a naturalized citizen when he was 12 in 1964, by way of derivative citizenship through the naturalization of his mom and dad. Marc remembers going to court as a child regarding his citizenship and he felt he was safely able to remain here.”
Nonetheless, ICE wants to detain Petitpierre because they say he is not a citizen. In fact, he is a citizen, just without papers, he says.
“I’ve had a green card since 1960,” Petitpierre says. “My father became a citizen in 1964. There are conditions or qualifications depending on the circumstances where a child can automatically be a citizen based on their parents naturalization. One way to look at that is that I had been a citizen since my dad became one. It’s just that I didn’t have the papers to prove it because the derivative papers were never filed. There is an application for certificate of citizenship. My lawyer has it, she has looked it over, we have talked about it. She is going over it with the immigration judge. The hearing in October before an immigration judge in Pittsburgh is about whether the legalities of deporting me are still valid based on the fact that I would be approved to be a citizen.”