Reporter violently arrested while trying to film Virginia Gov. hopeful Ed Gillespie at public eventThink Progress
November 1, 2017
A reporter covering Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie's appearance at a town parade Saturday was violently arrested by a half-dozen police after a woman reportedly associated with the Gillespie campaign spoke to the officers.
Mike Stark, who covers Gillespie's race for the site ShareBlue, was attempting to film Gillespie as he drove past during the annual Annandale Parade when he got into conflict with Fairfax County law enforcement over whether where he was standing counted as sidewalk or roadway.
Video of the encounter and arrest show a woman in red approach the officers and speak with them just prior to Stark's arrest. ShareBlue reports the woman "had raised an objection to Stark's presence at a Gillespie campaign event just the evening prior." Gillespie campaign spokespeople did not respond to multiple requests for information on the woman's connection to the campaign, instead directing all questions to police. Stark had hoped to ask Gillespie some questions during a public appearance, according to his employer.
After the woman reportedly connected to the Gillespie campaign arrives, one of the officers tells Stark that if he curses again they'll arrest him. "Fuck this," Stark replies. Officers initially press him against a wrought-iron fence and pull his hands behind his back. After a moment, one reaches down and grabs Stark's ankle then throws him face-first onto the pavement. Other police arrive, pile atop Stark on the sidewalk, and complete the arrest.
Stark can be heard throughout his arrest trying to communicate calmly with the pile of officers atop him.
"Stop, I will give you my arm," Stark said, as an officer repeats a command. "I can't. You have your weight on top of me. I cannot give you my hand. My hand is stuck beneath me," Stark said. The half-dozen police pinning him to the ground with their hands, knees, and bodies can then be seen wrenching him around as he cries out in pain. After getting his arms behind his back - as he'd had them in the moments before he was slammed to the pavement - the cops finish cuffing him.
Police nonetheless added resisting arrest to Stark's charges, according to his employer.
The video posted by the site goes on to show Stark and the arresting officers chatting in the minutes after his arrest. "Do you always arrest people for cursing?" he asked. "Yes," one officer responded, citing county code.
"You told me to fuck off," the same officer said.
"No I said "fuck this," Stark said.
The video ends shortly thereafter as additional officers arrive and ask the man filming to stop. "I'd appreciate it. OK? I really would. Job's hard enough," the arriving officer said.
The violence and confrontational nature of the video set Stark's arrest apart from a spring incident in West Virginia where local reporter Dan Heyman was arrested for asking then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price questions in a hallway inside the state capitol building. Price, who has since resigned from his post after being caught spending taxpayer money on private jet travel for short trips from Washington, D.C. to nearby east-coast cities, later refused to comment on Heyman's arrest. Charges against the reporter were eventually dropped.
Similarly, police in D.C. initially included a half-dozen journalists in their sweeping round-up of hundreds present near the site of Antifa property destruction during President Donald Trump's inauguration in January. While each of the reporters was eventually removed from the unprecedented felony indictment federal prosecutors have levied coming out of the round-up, one alleges in a lawsuit that police subjected he and fellow detainees to humiliating, unnecessary, and sexually violent search procedures at a third, secluded location before taking them to a booking facility.
More recently, a documentary filmmaker sued the St. Louis Police Department in September alleging that riot police had singled him out for repeat beatings following the "kettle" arrests of dozens of people who remained on the streets several hours after a handful of arrests of people who smashed windows nearby.
Trump's campaign last year was marked by open hostility toward the press. He has mused repeatedly about rewriting libel laws to make it easier to sue reporters. He signed an executive order shortly after taking office that would make it easier for police to treat so-called "contempt of cop" arrests - the detention of Stark shown in Saturday's video being emblematic of the way police use the euphemism - as violent felonies.
Thin-skinned reactions toward those who express disapproval or ask challenging questions are common among his fellow travelers. His Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, grew irate and wagged his finger in the face of a Native American woman who was trying to ask him questions on the street this summer. Former Milwaukee County Sheriff Dave Clarke, a close ally now employed by a Trump-boosting political non-profit, left office under a cloud of investigation after ordering deputies to interrogate a man who'd shaken his head disapprovingly at the then-sheriff during a commercial flight.
Stark has repeatedly tried to ask Gillespie about his campaign's reliance on racist incitements in its advertising materials, according to ShareBlue, including repeated attempts to link opponent Ralph Northam to the drug gang MS-13. More recently, Gillespie promised to protect Confederate monuments such as the Charlottesville Robert E. Lee statue that was the flashpoint for the August white nationalist rally where one attendee later killed an anti-racism counterprotester with his car.