By Drew Zahn
A conservative talk radio station has been forced off the air after years of wresting with the state and the courts over property rights, shut down by a reported 30 armed police officers who barged into the station in the middle of the owner’s radio show and showed him the door.
John Stokes is the owner of KGEZ-, a station whose headquarters sit on 6.5 acres and whose towers sit on a 160-acre easement of farmland in rural Kalispell, Mont. According to Stokes, KGEZ is America’s oldest independently owned radio station, on air since 1927.
Stokes, a former real estate agent for 25 years, valued the cost of destroying his business with the new roadway at $2.5 million, but the state, he says, only offered him $100,000 in order to bulldoze it.
Now, after years of fighting both the state and private interests over the land his station sits on, Stokes is battling in bankruptcy court. And even though at least $3.8 million of his debt is from a questionable, defamation lawsuit still in appeals, the court has come to collect.
Last week, armed deputies from the sheriff’s office entered the station, evicted Stokes and turned of the power. Except for its website’s online presence, KGEZ is off the air.
Stokes told WND he believes the deluge of lawsuits and judgments is linked both to the content of his broadcasting – for Stokes has blasted big government, environmentalism and illegal immigration, among other sensitive issues – and to local government run amok.
“This is America’s oldest station, we’re an independent voice, and they’re trying to silence us and put me in jail,” Stokes said. “They want me to go away.”
WND’s Joseph Farah, whose radio program once broadcast on KGEZ, sees a bigger picture in Stokes’ fight to keep his station:
“By hook or by crook, it seems, government at all levels – local, state and federal – have no respect for property rights nor freedom of speech and the press,” Farah said. “What happened to KGEZ should be a wakeup call that we are all in a titanic battle for freedom – and right now we are losing the battle.”
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