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On The Front Lines

Rutherford Institute Defends Disabled Veteran Who Was Arrested After Lawful Purchase of Canned Iced Tea, Aerosol Bug Spray & Razor Blades

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Denouncing overzealous police tactics lacking in common sense and respect for the fundamental rights of the citizenry, The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a disabled veteran who was arrested and charged with a crime after he lawfully purchased cans of Arizona iced tea, aerosol bug spray, a light bulb, and razor blades, all of which were on the City of Charlottesville’s list of temporarily prohibited, potentially “dangerous” items. Incidentally, the veteran’s guns (not among the list of prohibited items) caused no alarm. 

John Miska, a 64-year-old, disabled Vietnam War veteran and Albemarle County resident, was arrested on August 11, 2018, as he exited a CVS Pharmacy located on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, which was within a section of the city that had been temporarily placed under heightened security restrictions that required all persons entering the mall to have their bags searched. 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.”

In coming to Miska’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys point out that while the declaration prohibited individuals from bringing prohibited items onto the mall, it did not prohibit people from lawfully purchasing those items from retail establishments on the mall. Charged with violating a City ordinance requiring compliance with law enforcement orders, Miska faces a fine of up to $250. Miska’s trial in General District Court is scheduled for Friday, September 28. Elliott M. Harding of Harding Counsel PLLC, is assisting The Rutherford Institute with Miska’s case.

“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 and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “This case is yet another vivid example of how dysfunctional, excessive and out of sync the government has become at all levels.”

One year after the events of August 12, 2017, when civil unrest broke out in Charlottesville over the city’s decision to remove a Confederate statue from a public park, city officials declared a “state of emergency” and established a “security area” around the Downtown Mall, restricting access to the area on August 11 and 12, 2018, and prohibiting the possession of numerous objects within the area that could be considered an “implement of a riot.” City officials also declared that all bags would be “consensually” searched before anyone was allowed to enter the security area. John Miska, a disabled veteran who has been a vocal advocate for veterans’ causes and the First Amendment, opted to visit the Downtown Mall on Saturday, Aug. 11, to purchase household items and to eat lunch, as he frequently does. Using a walker because of his disability, Miska entered the security area and, prior to lunch, proceeded to the Mall’s CVS Pharmacy, where he purchased two cases of Arizona Iced Tea cans and a package of straight-edge razor blades, among other items. 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. 

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