Jonas Phillips, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, sometimes stands at an Interstate overpass near his workplace and holds a sign that reads Impeach Bush-Cheney. Wednesday morning, he’d been standing there about ten minutes when he was approached by one Russell Crisp of the Asheville Police Department. Crisp asked Phillips how long he intended to stay in his spot, and Philips said not long–he had to be at work shortly. The officer then asked Phillips for his ID. Phillips asked if he had done anything wrong, and Crisp said only that a sergeant was on the way.
Sergeant Randy Riddle then appeared, told Phillips to put his sign down and to place his hands behind his back. He then arrested and handcuffed Phillips, and—when asked—informed him that he was in violation of County Ordinance 16-2, and that he was obstructing the sidewalk. Phillips replied that Officer Crisp had witnessed a man walk by him and his sign and could therefore attest that the sidewalk had not been obstructed.
According to Phillips, Riddle then yelled “You were obstructing the sidewalk!” “I’m sick of this shit!” and “Here’s your fifteen minutes of fame, buddy.” (Do you think Crisp has a working knowledge of Warhol?)
Once at the jail, Phillips says he was repeatedly questioned about his memberships in particular groups—Veterans for Peace and the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action. He was then searched, photographed and given a court date.
Phillips reports that in Asheville, it is legal to stage a protest on a city sidewalk without a permit. According to his wife, he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union for help. Also, the police are considering changing the charge to a state violation of endangering motorists. After all, he must be guilty of something.