Two men arrested by Maryland Capitol Police earlier this month have filed a lawsuit against the department, alleging that their First and Fourth amendment rights were violated.
Jeff and Kevin Hulbert of The Patriot Picket, a group opposed to gun control, were arrested Feb. 5 on a sidewalk near Lawyers Mall in Annapolis. They were charged with failing to obey a lawful order. The charges were later dropped.
A small clutch of Patriot Picket members routinely holds pro-Second Amendment signs near the State House when the General Assembly is in session. Often their signs target Democrats.
“The charges were unlawful,” said Cary J. Hansel, an attorney representing the men. Because the protestors were standing on a public sidewalk exercising their First Amendment rights, “there is no lawful charge that could possibly be brought,” Hansel said.
Hansel also accused the police of “retaliation,” saying, “after these gentlemen were arrested, after they spoke out to the media, then there were two different charges laid against each of them.”
Police spokesman Nick Cavey said the Maryland Department of General Services, which oversees the agency, is unaware of any lawsuit.
“The Maryland Capitol Police are committed to providing a safe working environment for state employees and visitors that frequent state properties, and to secure buildings that are located on state property. Ensuring that citizens are able to exercise their constitutional rights is and will always be a top priority,” according to a statement from the agency.
Hansel noted that same-sex marriage opponents from Westboro Baptist Church were allowed to protest in 2013, on the same spot where the Hulberts were arrested. They had “signs that would be utterly revolting not just to a particular political party, but to any right-thinking human being,” Hansel said. “They had every right to stand there, and they were permitted to stand there.”
As he was being handcuffed and placed in a police car, Jeff Hulbert told Maryland Matters that Senate leadership objected to the presence of his group, a charge Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) denied.
“I walk by their signs. I talk to them. They like me,” Miller said. “They know I’m a gun owner. We relate well together.”