It’s understandable that police in Charlottesville, Virginia, would want precautions to prevent violence.
It was, after all, their town that erupted in mayhem during a 2017 “Unite the Right” rally. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car plowed into a crowd countering the protest.
On the first anniversary of the violence, there was a “rally against racial hatred.”
Jason Kessler, who organized last year’s event in Charlottesville, held his rally this year in Washington.
But a conflict arose because of precautions by police in Charlottesville against violence again this year.
Police created a temporary zone of heightened security restrictions for the downtown mall area that required all people entering have their bags searched.
Some items were being prohibited.
However, a disabled veteran went into the mall, purchased a number of ordinary household items, and then was arrested when leaving the security zone because the items were banned.
“Talk about overkill: government officials spent more than $3 million on security for the August 12 anniversary events, only to have a dozen police swarm a disabled veteran with a walker buying cans of iced tea and bug spray from a CVS,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.
“This case is yet another vivid example of how dysfunctional, excessive and out of sync the government has become at all levels.”
His institute is representing the veteran, John Miska, 64, disabled from the Vietnam War and a resident of Albemarle County.
He was arrested Aug. 11 as he left a CVS Pharmacy on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, which was within a section of the city that had been temporarily placed under those additional security restrictions.
“Miska, who was using his walker to transport his CVS purchases, was charged with violating a draconian ’emergency’ declaration that prohibited anyone from entering the mall in possession of common household items, including metal beverage and food cans, glass bottles, skateboards, aerosol sprays and any other item police considered an ‘implement of a riot,'” the institute report said.
Facing a fine of up to $250, he’ll be in general District Court on Friday, for allegedly violating a city ordinance requiring compliance with law enforcement orders.
But his lawyers point out that while the declaration prohibited individuals from bringing prohibited items to the mall, there was no prohibition against people legally purchasing such items from retailers on the mall.
His shopping spree included Arizona iced tea, aerosol bug spray, a light bulb and razor blades.
The institute describes the enforcement as “overzealous police tactics lacking in common sense and respect for the fundamental rights of the citizenry.”
With no trouble entering the special security area, Miska, using a walker because of his disability, did some of his routine shopping.
“Upon exiting the store, Miska was accosted by police who searched the CVS plastic bag containing his purchases. Miska was then handcuffed, arrested and charged with violating Section 18-25 of the city code,” the report said.