November 24, 2008
A local veteran is speaking out after police threatened to arrest him for distributing ‘Buddy Poppies,’ or memorial flowers, at the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Now the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute has stepped in and filed a first amendment lawsuit against the National Park Police.
John Miska is known in the community for the work he does to help injured veterans and distributing ‘Buddy Poppies.’
“They're handed out as a remembrance of veterans sacrifice. The poppies are red representing the blood the soldiers shed and it's a reminder and it gives people pause to think,” said John Miska, Veteran.
Recently the U.S. Park Police threatened to arrest Miska for handing out his Poppies on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
“People see me standing there and they approach me and ask may I have a Poppy and I give them a Poppy. If people are moved to offer a donation we accept the donations,” said Miska.
According to the president of the Rutherford Institute, Miska hasn't done anything wrong, he has only expressed his first amendment rights.
“People occasionally give him money. There’s a statute it’s a D.C. law that says you can’t aggressively solicit money, but he doesn't do any of that. We feel it's a violation of the first amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees you the right to assemble or guarantees you the right to free speech to hand out Buddy Poppies,” said John Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute.
Miska says this experience isn't going to stop him from his mission and that it will only encourage him to do more.
“I took an oath to the constitution to preserve protect and defend and I feel if you don't stand up for you rights you will loose those rights,” said Miska.
CBS19 has tried contacting the U.S. Park Police, but they have not returned the phone call.
The Rutherford Institute is waiting on the government to answer the complaint. What happens next will depend on the U.S. Attorney General's response.