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Police launch investigation over confrontation between officer, reporter in Virginia


According to our affiliate WJLA, the video of officers taking down and forcefully arresting a reporter in Annandale, Virginia has led the police department to launch an internal investigation.

A video shot by a bystander shows Mike Stark, a reporter for the left wing news website Shareblue.com, covering an event attended by Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie on Saturday.

Stark was recording the arrival of Gillespie’s bus when an officer approached him and said, "You’re one the road. Get on the sidewalk."

Stark responds by saying, "I'm a f---ing reporter doing my job."

The officer begins to walk away and says, "If you curse again, in front of us, you're going to jail."

“Captain flat out told me that if I cuss again I’m going to jail. I have a defiant streak and I said the ‘F-word this’ and I went to jail," Stark said.

Stark admitted to then telling "F--- this!" at the officer.

Two officers grabbed him and then a group of officers joined them to pin him to the ground.

As officers wrestle him to the ground, Stark struggles to protect his head from the pavement and pleads, "Stop, I'll give you my arm" after officers tell him to put his hands up.

Later Stark asks the officer, "So, do you always arrest people for cursing?"

"Yes," the officer replies. "It's called curse and abuse: 5-1-1. It's a county code."

In Fairfax County, cursing in public is considered a Class 4 misdemeanor carrying a fine "not more than $250 dollars."

At a press conference on Tuesday, Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler disagreed with Stark and said he was happy with how his officers handled the arrest.

"We are law enforcement officers. It's our role, our mission, our profession to protect our community," he said. "There were children and families at this event and we informed the gentleman (Stark) that he was under arrest."

Stark doesn't think his use of a four letter word warranted being arrested and forcefully taken down by six officers.

Police charged Stark with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was released on a $3,000 bound.

<h2>Virginia isn't the only state with anti-profanity law and blasphemy laws.</h2>

Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania have laws that make reference to blasphemy.

Massachusetts: “Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing, or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the word, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.”

Michigan: “Any person who shall willfully blaspheme the holy name of God, by cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Oklahoma: "Blasphemy consists in wantonly uttering or punishing words, casting contumelious reproach or profane ridicule upon God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Holy Scriptures, or the Christian or any other religion.” Uttering such speech is classified as a misdemeanor."

Mississippi: “If any person shall profanely swear or curse, or use vulgar and indecent language, or be drunk in any public place, in the presence of two (2) or more persons, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100.00) or be imprisoned in the county jail not more than thirty (30) days each.”

North Carolina: “If any person shall, on any public road or highway and in the hearing of two or more persons, in a loud and boisterous manner, use indecent or profane language, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.”

The last time anyone from the U.S was put in jail for breaking an anti-profanity law was 1838 in Massachusetts.

According to a report by The Marshall Project, even in states with anti-profanity laws it's extremely rare for charges based solely on the use of bad words to hold up in court citing a recent case in Washington State:

"The court’s finding reaffirmed a principle with a long and geographically sweeping history in the United States, to wit: People are allowed to call the police names, even really bad names, and really, it’s hard to imagine a name much worse than “motherfucker.”

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