Aaron Tobey was handcuffed and detained for nearly 90 minutes at the Richmond International Airport in Richmond, Virginia by the Transportation Security Administration in December of 2010 because of simply removing his shirt to display the text of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which was written on his chest in black magic-marker, according to a civil rights lawsuit. That lawsuit has gone to trial and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge voting 2-1 in favor of Tobey.
Misdemeanor charges against Tobey were dropped by prosecutors in Henrico County and that is when he sought a lawsuit against the TSA and others. Tobey’s lawsuit took on individuals. The suit names:
TERRI JONES, individually and in her official capacity as a Supervisory Transportation Security Officer with the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security; REBECCA SMITH, individually and in her official capacity as a Transportation Security Officer with the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security, Defendants-Appellants,
QUENTIN TRICE, individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police of the Richmond International Airport Police; CALVIN VANN, individually and in his capacity as an officer of the Richmond International Airport Police; ANTHONY MASON, individually and in his official capacity as an officer of the Richmond International Airport Police; JEFFREY KANDLER, individually and in his official capacity as an officer of the Richmond International Airport Police; JANET NAPOLITANO, in her official capacity as Secretary of Homeland Security; JOHN S. PISTOLE, in his official capacity as Administrator, Transportation Security Administration; CAPITAL ý REGION AIRPORT COMMISSION; VICTOR WILLIAMS, in his official
capacity as Director of Public Safety and Operations, Richmond International Airport Police; JANE DOE, individually and in her official capacity as a TSA Checkpoint Manager with the Transportation Security Administration of the Department of Homeland Security.
Tobey had written an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his chest which read:
“Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.”
The lawsuit, which was seeking $250,000 in damages, cited the fact that both his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the process of this event. He was attempting to catch a flight to Wisconsin for his grandmother’s funeral. He did make the flight in spite of the detainment.
According the Judge Roger Gregory, who wrote the majority opinion of the Court:
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.
Mr. Tobey didn’t want to engage in the porn scanners provided to the TSA and instead opted for the intrusive pat down. He removed most of his clothing during the unconstitutional process.
To make matters worse, as Tobey appealed silently to the Constitution, the jack booted thugs of the TSA questioned him as he was being detained wanting to know “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.”
Dissenting 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.
Oh yes, we can’t have a distraction from moving the sheeple along and get them to think that they need to resist unconstitutional procedures of government, can we? Frankly what is distracting is the dog and pony show of the TSA as they violate the rights of American citizens like Aaron Tobey by the millions everyday.