Back in 2010, Aaron Tobey from Virginia, wrote an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment on his torso and stripped down to his shorts at the security screening area at Richmond International Airport.
He was arrested and detained for 90 minutes by TSA on a disorderly conduct charge and decided launch a civil rights lawsuit after the incident.
Tobey had written the excerpt on his chest with magic marker, it read: “Amendment 4: The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated,” and it was intended to be a protest against airport security measures.
He did not want to go through the advanced imaging x-ray machines and was going to opt for an intrusive pat-down instead. However when his turn came up, he stripped down to his shorts revealing the message scribed on his torso.
In his civil rights lawsuit, Tobey is seeking $250,000 in damages for wrongful detention and a breach of the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment.
This Friday he was one step closer to achieving this after a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 and granted him a trial. This was a reversal of a lower court judge’s decision and Judge Roger Gregory quoted Benjamin Franklin during the hearing, he stated:
“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.”
In dissent, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson argued that Tobey’s antics caused a diversion that could have been capitalized upon by “nefarious actors” for “dangerous effects.” He claimed that the defendants responded to the situation in a manner that any passenger would hope they would, by calling upon local law enforcement to remove Tobey and the distraction he had initiated.
According to Tobey’s suit, after he was arrested authorities questioned him 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.” Just two weeks after the incident, the Henrico County prosecutor dropped the misdemeanor charge against him and Tobey decided to sue the TSA and others.
Tobey was at Richmond International Airport to travel to Wisconsin for his grandmother’s funeral when the incident occurred. Despite his detainment, he was still able to board his flight.