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cybermage's Journal: Another Day, Another Free Speech Arrest 2

Journal by cybermage

Police in Asheville, NC arrested a man for standing on a bridge overlooking the highway holding an "Impeach Bush" sign that could be read by vehicles passing by on the highway. He was charged with obstructing the sidewalk.

According to the Ashville Citizen Times, police are now looking to change the charge to something involving public safety saying:

"The intent was public safety and the banner being a hazard," Asheville police Capt. Wade Wood said. "That's basically to the benefit of the motoring public."

The protestor, Jonas Phillips, describes the event in a blog entry:

On Wednesday August 15, I was standing alone with my sign for about 10 minutes, when I was approached by Police Officer Russell Crisp. He asked me how long I was planning to stay there and I told him just a few more minutes because I had to go to work at 8:00. He asked for my ID and I obliged. I asked him if I was doing something wrong, and he said that his Sergeant was on the way and he was going to wait for him. SO, I went back to my sign holding over the interstate.

A few minutes later Sergeant Randy Riddle showed up with a paper in his hand. He spoke briefly to Crisp, then walked over to me and told me to put down my sign, put my hands behind my back, and that I was under arrest! I was shocked and almost thought he was joking until he told me again to put down the sign and put my hands behind me and I was under arrest. So I peacefully agreed and he cuffed me. I asked him why I was being arrested, he told me I was in violation County Ordinance 16-2, (the print out in his hand that he didn't bother to read to me or show me.) He told me I was obstructing the sidewalk. I told him I was not and that officer Crisp had witnessed a guy walk by me moments before.

Riddle yelled at me, "You were obstructing the sidewalk!" and "I'm sick of this shit!" then he said, "Here's your 15 minutes of fame buddy!" I looked back to see his name plate and he said in a mean condescending tone, "Yea, that's 'Sergeant Riddle' get it right!" He then put me in Officer Crisp's police car. Riddle took my sign with him and I was taken downtown and booked by Crisp. I was never read my Miranda rights.

While at the jail I was asked several times about what groups or organizations I was with, like a local group Veterans for Peace. And more specifically the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action group that had protested at the Bank of America on Monday. I was told by officer Crisp that since that protest the police had pulled out this ordinance. I was searched, and they took pictures of me and my tattoos. Since I haven't been in trouble in 15 years, I was given a court date and allowed to sign a written promise to appear in court.

Again we see an example of local yahoo initiative to curtail dissenting speech. At the risk of repeating myself from a story yesterday, Many will hear this news story and will store away the fact that expressing their political views on a sign will get them in trouble with the law, and they'll think twice before they do it themselves.

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Another Day, Another Free Speech Arrest

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