Police defend reporter’s arrest at Virginia parade

Posted at 1:23 PM, Nov 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-01 13:24:44-04

ANNADALE, Va. — A journalist was wounded during an arrest over the weekend while trying to pose a question to members of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s campaign, but the police involved say their actions were justified.

The arrest came at a parade on Saturday in Annandale, Virginia, where reporter Mike Stark filmed Gillespie’s vehicle. Police there apparently asked him to move farther away from the vehicle and to stop recording, prompting an angry response from Stark.

In a video of the altercation, an officer can be heard warning Stark not to curse.

“F*ck this,” Stark replied, before the officer swiftly attempts to handcuff him. Stark can be seen being pushed into a wrought iron fence as officers start to handcuff him. One of the officers can be seen grabbing Stark’s right leg, from behind, and dropping him hard to the ground. Neutralized on the pavement, Stark was then swarmed by six officers while he screamed.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said that he believes the same footage justifies the actions of his officers. At a press conference Tuesday evening, Roessler played a video of the arrest, which he said showed Stark “avoiding arrest.”

“The officer is met with someone that, all of a sudden, was complying with being handcuffed to becoming what we call ‘a passive resister,'” Roessler said. “The gentleman wasn’t using force to physically harm the officer. The gentleman was avoiding arrest, and that’s clear in the video.”

Roessler said that Stark was arrested for disorderly conduct, for his use of profanity in public, and for avoiding arrest. Their investigation into the matter will continue, Roessler said, and it will include interviews with witnesses. But Roessler believes his officers were in the right.

“I’m standing before you to defend the lawful actions of my police officers enforcing the law to protect our community at a parade,” Roessler said.

It’s not apparent from the footage whether Stark was actually avoiding arrest. Video of the arrest was posted online Tuesday by Shareblue Media, the liberal news website for which Stark reports.

“Mike intends to fight the charges, the video clearly shows that was false,” Shareblue executive editor Jess McIntosh told CNN in a statement.

Gillespie’s spokesman referred CNN to Fairfax County Police for questions regarding the incident.

The arrest provoked outrage and disgust among journalists and civil liberties defenders.

“An attack on the press is an attack on our constitutional democracy,” the ACLU tweeted in response to the video. “We can’t let this be accepted as normal.”

Shareblue says that Stark has been dogging Gillespie’s campaign for months, repeatedly posing questions to the Republican candidate only to be rebuffed.

In Shareblue’s recounting of the incident, a Fairfax County police officer “demanded that Stark cease filming” Gillespie’s parade vehicle.

When asked by a reporter if Stark was prompted by police to stop filming and posing questions, Roessler said, “I don’t have that information. That’s part of our investigation.”

Shareblue says Stark, who was apparently left with some cuts and bruising from the arrest, was unavailable for comment.

Shareblue’s McIntosh said that the video was captured by a tracker for the pro-Democratic Super PAC American Bridge.

“We’re first and foremost relieved that Mike is ok, but a close second is our relief that he’s back on the trail doing what he does best,” McIntosh told CNNMoney in a statement.