A Fairfax County police officer pulls Shareblue reporter Mike Stark's foot out from under him. (Shareblue)
Mama said swearing is not polite, but the law in Fairfax County, Va., says it is illegal.
That's right. Under a local ordinance, “if any person profanely curse or swear or be drunk in public, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor,” which in Virginia carries a fine of up to $250.
Is that even constitutional?
“There is no question that ‘profanely curse or swear’ has been ruled unconstitutional,” Fairfax criminal defense lawyer Robert C. Whitestone said, meaning that an ordinance that would restrict foul language would not pass muster.
Whatever. Fairfax County police decided to crack down on cussing Saturday at a parade in Annandale attended by Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie. In a video posted by the liberal website Shareblue, one of the site's reporters can be seen in the midst of a verbal confrontation with a police officer, who tells him to “get out of the road.”
“You're in the road,” the officer says, though the reporter, Mike Stark, is not in the road but rather in the entrance of a parking lot. “Get on the sidewalk.”
“I'm a f---ing reporter doing my job,” Stark protests.
“If you curse again, in front of us, you're going to jail,” a second officer warns.
“F--- this,” Stark responds.
“Go to jail,” the second officer answers.
Things escalate from there. The two officers turn Stark to face a fence and attempt to handcuff him. They struggle to do so, for reasons that are not apparent on video, and the first officer pulls Stark's right foot from under him, sending Stark to the ground.
“Stop, I will give you my arm,” Stark says, with the officers on top of him and his left arm pinned between his chest and the ground.
“Put your hands up,” one of the officers says.
“I can't,” Stark replies. “You have your weight on top of me. I cannot give you my hand. My hand is stuck beneath me.”
Four more officers converge on Stark.
“What's in his hand? What's in his hand?” one of the officers says.
“Nothing!” Stark yells.
Finally, the officers cuff Stark and roll him onto his right side.
“So, do you always arrest people for cursing?” he asks.
“Yes,” one of the officers replies. “It's called curse and abuse: 5-1-1. It's a county code.”
It sure is, but the claim that Fairfax County police “always” arrest violators strains credulity.
Fairfax court records show Stark was taken into custody for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
A police spokeswoman did not respond to a Fix inquiry on that point or answer other questions, such as why it was necessary to bring Stark to the ground and why six officers were required to subdue him. A police spokesman told another Washington Post reporter that they weren't yet prepared to comment.