YFZ – At the Roadblock

Eldorado – Texas State Troopers Sgt. Stan Waters (left) and Martin Molotsky manning a roadblock on road CR-300, which leads to the FLDS YFZ “Yearning for Zion” compound outside of Eldorado, Texas, Saturday, April 5, 2008.

YFZ – CPS Press Conference

Eldorado – Marleigh Meisner, spokesperson for the Texas Child Protective Services, confirms at a press conference that the CPS has removed 183 people, 137 of them children, from the YFZ “Yearning for Zion” FLDS polygamous compound. The press conference took place at the Eldorado High School, Saturday, April 5, 2008.

Raid at YFZ

I didn’t expect to be in Texas today. But then I woke up and saw the news, that law enforcement had gone into the secretive FLDS compound just outside Eldorado, Texas, to investigate allegations of child abuse among the polygamous community.

We knew we had to go, even if there was a chance that it would all be over by the time we got there. It took us all day to get to Eldorado. Eleven hours of TSA, delayed flights, several broken carry-on luggage rules, missed connecting flights, a missing bag containing about $20,000 worth of equipment (it turned up), a lame KFC dinner eaten while driving, you name it. What a joy travel is in the “modern” age.

Along the way we kept getting more bits of information about what was happening. Some substantiated, some rumor, some speculation, all of it fascinating. It was soon verified that children were being removed from the “Yearning for Zion” compound by law enforcement. Now we had a story. A historic event, even.

The Short Creek raid in 1953 was a flashpoint in the history of polygamy. Women and children were separated from their husbands and fathers by the state of Arizona. And now, fifty-five years later we see another raid. As of tonight, there is no telling where events will lead. The 1953 raid was a public relations disaster for the Arizona government, and after two years nearly every family was reunited. I can’t tell you what will happen here in Texas. I can’t tell you who is right or who is wrong. I can only show you what I saw tonight when we drove into town:

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These FLDS children were arriving at the First Baptist Church in Eldorado, Texas, a temporary shelter for them as the investigation/raid continues.

A few notes about the photo, which I feel captures an historic moment in the FLDS story. First, there had to be some sensitivity in the taking of the photograph. Luckily, I brought along a 50/1.4 lens so that I wouldn’t need to use flash. Popping a flash at children who were just taken from their parents and homes would not have been compassionate. Like a good backpacker, I wanted to leave a minimal footprint. So I shot available light, something like 1/30th at f1.4 at ISO 800. Maybe when I’m actually awak I’ll actually tone and sharpen it for you, but it’s been a long day.

Some of the volunteers at the church clearly didn’t want me taking photographs. They were good people looking out for the FLDS, who are very private people. I can understand their feelings. But this is an important story. I try to work with the same compassion they were feeling for the children. Once we had the photo, we left. In the morning we’ll go back and hopefully it will be more obvious that while we’re serious journalists, we’re not “THE MEDIA.”

YFZ – First Baptist Church

Eldorado – FLDS children who were removed from the YFZ Ranch are brought to the First Baptist Church, Friday April 4, 2008

Eldorado – FLDS children who were removed from the YFZ Ranch are brought to the First Baptist Church, Friday April 4, 2008

Eldorado – Volunteers (who did not want to be photographed) unload food at the First Baptist Church for FLDS children who were removed from the YFZ Ranch Friday April 4, 2008

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