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Arrested: Asheville Citizen with "Impeach Bush, Cheney" Sign, Cited With Blocking Sidewalk

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WillYourVoteBCounted Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-17-07 11:21 AM
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Arrested: Asheville Citizen with "Impeach Bush, Cheney" Sign, Cited With Blocking Sidewalk
Asheville City Police Officer Russell Crisp and Sergeant Randy Riddle believe in your freedom of speech - if they like what you say.

Asheville Police arrested a protestor for "impeach Bush, Cheney" sign - citing him with dubvious charge of "obstructing a sidewalk" this Wednesday. Since he wasn't actually blocking the sidewalk, they are looking for something else that could stick - and said Thursday "a N.C. Department of Transportation violation would be more fitting."

Charges against highway blogger will change

by Adam Behsudi,
August 17, 2007

ASHEVILLE Police said Thursday that it would change charges against a man who held an impeach Bush, Cheney sign from a bridge over Interstate 240.

Jonas Phillips, a 35-year-old West Asheville resident, said he had recently taken up highway blogging, a protest practice of displaying signs of political discontent from highway overpasses.

Police cited him Wednesday for obstructing the sidewalk but said Thursday a N.C. Department of Transportation violation would be more fitting.

In other words, as soon as they can trump up something that might stick.

This message from Phillips was forwarded to the Veterans for Peace list serve:

I am writing to tell you about an abuse of power in Asheville, NC by a police sergeant. I occasionally stand on an interstate overpass near my place of work in the mornings and hold a sign that says 'IMPEACH BUSH / CHENEY'.

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.

This is an example of an American citizen having his/her civil liberties tread upon. In Asheville, you are allowed to protest on city sidewalks without a permit. The sidewalk is about 5 feet wide.

I never blocked the sidewalk; I knew about that ordinance already and was not trying to be arrested. It was obvious to me that Riddle had a
problem with my sign because there is no way I could block the sidewalk all by myself. I feel like my rights were trampled by this harassment from Riddle. I got the feeling that he was trying to scare me away, but he only strengthened my resolve to protest more!

By the way, I never got my sign back from Sergeant Riddle.

Jonas Phillips



I have written the Mayor of Asheville and the Chief of Police to tell them how important the freedom of speech for all of us is.

Tell them that:

Freedom of speech doesn't mean - "you are free to speak if we agree with what you say."



Call the Mayor of Asheville, email the officials - tell them to drop the charges against Phillips and to apologize.

Mayor Terry M. Bellamy
Contact Information
Office of the Mayor
Mayor Terry M. Bellamy
Mailing address:
P.O. Box 7148, Asheville, NC, 28802
Location: Asheville City Hall, Second Floor, 70 Court Plaza
Phone: (828) 259-5600
Fax: (828) 259-5649
E-mail: mayorbellamy@ashevillenc.gov

mayorbellamy@ashevillenc.gov mayor
whogan@ashevillenc.gov police chief
jrichardson@ashevillenc.gov assistant city manager
gjackson@ashevillenc.gov city manager

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libnnc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-17-07 11:32 AM
Response to Original message
1. This should be cross posted in GD.
Has WLOS done a story on this?
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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-22-07 01:05 AM
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2. K
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