Local veterans advocate John Miska is in the process of settling a lawsuit he filed against the City of Charlottesville following his arrest for purchasing prohibited items during the Aug. 12, 2018 Unite the Right Anniversary weekend.
Miska, a resident of Albemarle County, was arrested after he purchased two cases of canned Arizona Ice Tea, a blade for a paint scraper and bug spray at the CVS Pharmacy on the Downtown Mall on Aug. 11, 2018 after passing through security checkpoints manned by the Virginia State Police.
City emergency restrictions banned metal beverage containers, razors and other sharp objects and required that those items purchased from stores on the mall be left in bags.
The lawsuit, filed in February by the Rutherford Institute on Miska’s behalf, alleged that the restrictions were unconstitutionally over-broad, infringing the Fourth and 14th amendment rights of Miska and others.
A Wednesday press release from the Rutherford Institute, said the City of Charlottesville had agreed to settle the lawsuit, describing it as “a victory for common sense”.
“This case — in which government officials spent more than $3 million on security only to have a dozen police swarm a disabled veteran with a walker buying cans of iced tea and bug spray — is a classic example of government overkill,” said John W. Whitehead, a constitutional attorney and president of The Rutherford Institute, in the press release.
At the time of the purchases, Miska told a Daily Progress reporter that he bought the items because he “won’t let bullies dictate to me what I can and cannot do in a free society” and because he wanted to show “the hypocrisy of just banning stuff.”
“Were there any permits issued down here for anyone to demonstrate? Do we have anybody organized to demonstrate in our city today? No,” he said at the time. “So here we have the populace being cowed under virtual martial law, and I refuse to be intimidated.”
Miska declined police officers’ offers to escort him to his car to drop off the packages and then reenter the mall. He was then charged with possessing prohibited items during the event and released on a summons. The charges were later dropped.
On Wednesday, Miska said that the lawsuit has not been fully settled yet and he could not discuss its terms. He did, however, agree with the Rutherford Institute that the settlement agreement represented a victory.
“We established that my civil rights were violated by my inequitable arrest and I’m very happy the city recognized that,” he said. “You have to stand up for your civil rights or you’ll lose them.”
Miska also pointed to recent changes to city ordinances, which he claimed were a result of his lawsuit.
On September 16, the Charlottesville City Council voted to change event ordinances, which decreased the number of prohibited items.
Other amendments not related to Miska’s arrest were passed as well, including: defining a demonstration as “an activity reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers;” and changing violations from criminal to civil.
City Attorney John Blair said he would not comment on the lawsuit because the settlement is pending, requiring a U.S. District Court judge’s signature to be finalized.