Watch your mouth when you’re walking the streets of Fairfax County, Virginia. You might get arrested.
Mike Stark, a reporter for the liberal website ShareBlue, was covering a parade that was also attended by Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie.
Stark was standing in the entrance of a parking lot when a police officer told him to get on the sidewalk. The interaction escalated quickly.
Two impolite words by Stark left him on the ground struggling against six officers while being handcuffed:
“I’m a f***ing reporter doing my job,” Stark said.
“If you curse again, in front of us, you’re going to jail,” an officer told Stark.
“F*** this,” Stark replied.
And off to jail he went, eventually charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The video shows that two officers were initially attempting to put handcuffs on Stark.
One of the officers sweeps Stark’s leg out from under him and takes him to the ground. Four other officers approached and also began restraining him.
One officer appears to press his knee down on Stark’s head while another demands he put one of his arms, which is trapped under his body, behind his back.
Stark learned the hard way that Fairfax County Code 5-1-1 says that “if any person profanely curse or swear or be drunk in public he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”
It’s unlikely that Fairfax County police often find themselves handcuffing a man on the ground for foul language, but they were legally within their rights to arrest Stark.
Is that ordinance constitutional? Possibly not, at least according to Fairfax criminal defense lawyer Robert Whitestone, who said “There is no question that ‘profanely curse or swear’ has been ruled unconstitutional.”
The video can also be viewed on ShareBlue’s site here.