A college student in New York is heading to court after being arrested for exercising his First Amendment on a Long Island overpass.
The student, 21-year-old Danny Martins, was displaying an American, Gadsden and Infowars flag as well as two Obama impeachment banners when several Nassau County police officers approached.
“It’s called reckless endangerment, you know that, right?” the unidentified officer said.
Despite Martins being present on the overpass every Friday since Sept. 2013 without issue, the officer claimed that the mere possibility of an accident trumped his right to protest.
Attempting to compromise, Martins offered to hold his banners instead of having them attached to the overpass fence. Speaking with Infowars, Martins detailed how the officer instead chose to arrest him.
“The officer told me he was calling his sergeant to double check everything and that I would be able to speak to him when he arrived,” Martins said. “He arrived and they immediately took me. No talk, nothing.”
Martins was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and second degree criminal nuisance.
“They wanted to set and example and stop me,” Martins said. “I told them I wouldn’t leave the overpass because I had every right to be there.”
Martins and his attorney Thomas Liotti held a press conference Tuesday, announcing that Martins, who plead not guilty to all charges, would be fighting the attack against his First Amendment in court.
“Independence Day from 1776 is all about expressing your grievances and petitioning the government and having a right of freedom of expression under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Liotti said.
Speaking with Long Island News 12, the Nassau District Attorney’s Office reiterated the officer’s claims, adding that an investigation was underway.
“Political protesters have a First Amendment right to display signs and flags, but they cannot create a public safety hazard in the process. We continue to review this case,” the statement read.
Martins has since opened a GoFundMe account in order to raise money for legal fees.
Identical incidents involving impeachment protesters have been seen across the country. Just last August, police in Missouri tackled and arrested several peaceful protesters for refusing to leave an overpass as well. Less than one week later, more than 50 protesters arrived, causing police to back down.
The Dallas, Texas City Council responded to the increase in overpass protests by banning signs within 75 feet of a freeway last January. The ban also included individuals who are “wearing any costume, clothing, attire or accessory intended to attract or seek the attention of the public.”
That same month, two Campbell, Wisc. residents filed a federal lawsuit after their town banned displaying flags and banners from overpasses.