John Miska frequently shops on the Downtown Mall, especially when CVS has two-for-one sales on cases of Arizona iced tea. Today, he ran afoul of the city’s list of prohibited items after he made his purchases, and was arrested for possessing the single edge blades he bought for his ice scraper.
Miska, 64, says he was both open- and concealed-carrying handguns, which are not prohibited during the Downtown Mall lockdown that limits pedestrian access and requires a search of purses, bags and backpacks belonging to those who wish to enter the mall.
“I clear the checkpoint, I’m Second Amendment friendly, I go into the store and make legal purchases,” says Miska. A police officer picked up his bag and asked to search it, he says. “I didn’t give him permission to search. He did it anyway.”
The list of prohibited items in the city during the August 10-12 weekend includes metal beverage cans, aerosol cans and razors, but Miska says he was not charged for possessing the two cases of canned green tea and mango iced tea, nor was he charged for possessing the bug spray he purchased.
He questions why businesses were allowed to sell the banned items and says while he was getting arrested, he saw a woman at a cafe drinking a beer out of a glass bottle, which is also a prohibited item. “They didn’t arrest her,” he says.
Miska, who is a disabled veteran, says he cut his knees and arms while police “were trying to stuff me into a paddy wagon too small for a disabled person.”
More injurious, he says, are the “hypocrisy and sheer stupidity of what they’re doing downtown.”
Says Miska, “I was challenging the authority of the director of public safety, the governor and the new city manager that they could abrogate my civil rights when there was no known threat. There was no Nazi demonstration, yet they turned downtown into a no-go zone. The Supreme Court says in public, a citizen has a right of free passage.”
City spokesman Brian Wheeler says, “People entering a store within the security area would have already been through an access point and been informed about the prohibited item restrictions.”
After three hours, Miska was released with a notice that he would be considered a trespasser if he appeared in the restricted downtown area before 6am Monday and with a class 4 misdemeanor arrest for failure to comply.
Miska, who on August 23 of last year attempted to remove a shroud that was placed over the Robert E. Lee statue in Market Street Park, knows it could have been worse. “They could have charged me with 48 counts of having soda cans,” he says.
Also arrested was Algenon Franklin Cain, 28, of Red Springs, North Carolina, for trespassing on two separate occasions. He’s being held without bond. And William Erbie Hawkins Jr., 53, of Amelia, was arrested for being drunk in public after a Virginia State Police officer noticed him walking unsteadily and gave him a field sobriety test, according to a press release issued by the City of Charlottesville.