A Virginia man won a trial Friday in his lawsuit seeking $250,000 in damages for being detained on a disorderly conduct charge. He had written a short version of the 4th Amendment on his chest, and stripped to his shorts at an airport security screening.
Wired reports that Aaron Tobey filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2010, claiming that he was handcuffed and held for an hour and a half by the Transportation Security Administration at the Richmond International Airport after he removed his clothing to display the 4th Amendment written on his chest as a protest of heightened airport security measures since 9/11.
“Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated,” his chest read.
Above the Law reports that Tobey’s case was originally thrown out, but lucky for him, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals is a fan of the Bill of Rights, and ruled 2-1 in his favor. According to Judge Roger Gregory:
“Here, Mr. Tobey engaged in a silent, peaceful protest using the text of our Constitution—he was well within the ambit of First Amendment protections. And while it is tempting to hold that First Amendment rights should acquiesce to national security in this instance, our Forefather Benjamin Franklin warned against such a temptation by opining that those ‘who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ We take heed of his warning and are therefore unwilling to relinquish our First Amendment protections—even in an airport.”
Not everyone supported Tobey in his fight to protect his rights. In dissent, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson wrote:
“Had this protest been launched somewhere other than in the security-screening area, we would have a much different case. But Tobey’s antics diverted defendants from their passenger-screening duties for a period, a diversion that nefarious actors could have exploited to dangerous effect. Defendants responded as any passenger would hope they would, summoning local law enforcement to remove Tobey—and the distraction he was creating — from the scene.”
Tobey also said in the suit that while detained, he was interrogated by law enforcement authorities who asked “about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were.”
Look at this kid. Does this look like a terrorist to you?