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DUI Checkpoint Eludes Protesters

Members of the Valley Forge Revolutionaries, a Libertarian group, attempt to protest a DUI checkpoint in Abington

Earlier coverage:

 

Members of the Valley Forge Revolutionaries started arriving at the Willow Grove Giant parking lot at about 9:15 p.m. Friday — they weren’t there for a late-night grocery run.

About a dozen of them gave up their Friday night to warn motorists about the DUI checkpoint that was scheduled to happen a little bit down Old York Road in Abington.

The group, founded in 2007, describes its police checkpoint protests as “checkpoint nullification” events.

The gathering was casual; most of the members seemed to know each other. Some of the Revolutionaries were eating snacks out of Styrofoam containers, gearing up for the long night. Others were chatting it up, about things that weren’t DUI checkpoint related.

Dana Costello was a member who made the trip up from Prospect Park. He was quick to offer up why he was standing in a supermarket parking lot late on a Friday night.

“If you think about it, [DUI checkpoints] are totally illegal,” Costello said. If we keep letting them happen, then there are going to be seat belt checkpoints, and then ‘junk-in-your-windshield checkpoints.’ Where does it end?”

Another member said police resources would be better allocated by chasing those suspected of driving under the influence.

“I drive behind cars driven by drunk people all the time,” the member said. “But instead of chasing them, all the police are tied up at a checkpoint while this guy on the side roads is in neighborhoods, potentially hitting little kids.”

Both members were quick to say that the group does not condone driving while drunk.

Prior to heading down Route 611 toward the checkpoint the group’s spokesman, Royersford resident Darren Wolfe, had some words of advice: Don’t speak with the police, don’t react emotionally, don’t use aggressive language and don’t get physical.

He calls the demonstrations “peaceful resistance.”

At the first protest, the Valley Forge Revolutionaries waved homemade signs with reflective lettering, some of which read, “Cops Ahead Exit Now” or “Big Bro is Watching.” The protestors also vocally warned approaching motorists of the DUI checkpoint.

Most recently, the group held a protest in June in Upper Moreland.

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The Revolutionaries seemed to be under the impression that the DUI checkpoint was going down on Old York Road in Abington, near Keith Road and Abington Memorial Hospital.

As it turns out, that was the “alternate location.”

A large Second Alarmers Rescue vehicle, replete with auxiliary lighting, sat parked, manned, and burning diesel fuel in a bank parking lot on Keith Road.

Cop cars were scattered throughout the area, but the checkpoint was 4 miles away — and no one told the protesters.

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At the checkpoint (on Huntingdon Pike, across from Genuardi’s/Giant), Abington Police Deputy Chief Michael Webb said the police hold checkpoints randomly throughout the summer, and that they always have a “primary” and an “alternate” location.

Webb said he was aware of the potential for protesters.

“Well, they were at the Upper Moreland checkpoint; there was a lot of internet traffic on Facebook,” Webb said. “Some of our police officers were there, so we were familiar with what happened at the [last] protest … What I did hear was that they were expressing their viewpoints about the checkpoint and they were generally orderly.”

As for the switch, Abington Police Sgt. Chris Porter said the decision to stage the DUI checkpoint on Huntingdon Pike was made earlier that evening and was made due to safety concerns for the potential protesters; he said there was simply more room at the Huntingdon Pike location.

The potential presence of the protestors didn’t affect the staffing of the checkpoint or the number of people who volunteered to help out, according to Porter. Porter also said that Abington Police do roving DUI patrol in addition to the checkpoints.

As for the issue of the Constitutionality of the searches, Webb and Porter said — very quickly — that the Supreme Court has already addressed the issue; both said that the police officers conducting the stops must adhere to several legal guidelines.

According to a New York Times article, in 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States did rule that such sobriety checkpoints do not violate constitutional rights, specifically addressing the preliminary questioning and observation by checkpoint officers.

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As of midnight, no protesters were in the area of the DUI checkpoint; a source said today that several protesters with signs were seen sitting in a dark parking lot on Old York Road at about 10 p.m. yesterday.

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Upper Moreland-Willow Grove Patch Local Editor Gerry Dungan contributed to this story.

Mike July 08, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Bump Bump D Bump
SMYRNA-X July 08, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Losers
Rofo_Rec July 08, 2012 at 11:50 AM
So if a checkpoint stops even one person operating a car over the limit, it's a success right ? You have friends and family on these same streets... ... I fail to see the logic of this 'revolutionary' cause ,,..,,
Keith Laskey July 08, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Revolutionaries, did you see the article about the 23-year vet police vet that lost his life this morning due to a drunk driver? These are the people you are trying to protect. Also, if you see people driving drunk while you are out driving it might be smart to call the police and report it.
Darren Wolfe July 08, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Hey commenters did you hear about when we used to chide the Soviets about their checkpoints? It can't happen here in our free society! Well guess what, it is happening here. You guys are throwing away our liberties for a very inefficient way of stopping DUIs. To quote Justice Stevens dissent in the Sitz decision: "This is a case that is driven by nothing more than symbolic state action-an insufficient justification for an otherwise unreasonable program of random seizures. Unfortunately, the Court is transfixed by the wrong symbol-the illusory prospect of punishing countless intoxicated motorists-when it should keep its eyes on the road plainly marked by the Constitution. I respectfully dissent."
truthsayer July 08, 2012 at 07:41 PM
There is some legitimacy to what these protesters say, but in my opinion, they take their beliefs a bit too far. I agree that we should not allow the government to continue it's intrusive reach into our lives, but there must be compromises. Such a compromise was struck by the high courts, in ruling on the constitutionality of these checkpoints. The checkpoints do more than take a few intoxicated motorists off the road. They are a public relations tool to keep the dangers of drunk driving in the forefront of the public's conciousness. So while they impose on our freedom, they are a tool which has contributed to reducing DUI by creating greater public awareness. It benefits the public good. Here is what you all missed. DUI checkpoints and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), have had substantial impact on raising public awareness and reducing DUI related incidents. Good for public safety, but bad for lawyers. Lawyers collect large fees representing DUI offenders, and the work is easy and very profitable. But when DUI arrests started to decline in this country, our elected officials (most of whom are lawyers) lowered the BAC levels to a national average of .08, from the usually accepted .10. This was done solely to benefit lawyers, not public safety. More arrests means more revenue for lawyers. States that did not want to conform were threatened by the federal government to have federal transportation funding withheld. Don't protest the checkpoints. Protests the lawyers.
Bob July 08, 2012 at 08:44 PM
These spineless Liberals have nothing better to do. Like the earlier poster wrote what about the Highway Patrolman that was killed on I-95 that was murdered by a DRUNK DRIVER?????? Thats ok HA?????? maybe if that idiot drove threw a DUI check point that Officer maybe alive now. And Im sure after they check the other driver in Millville NJ that killed the other Officer last night they will find that he was drunk also.
SMYRNA-X July 09, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Soviet check points in america? Do you even listen to your own non sense? Completely no comparision. Your anarchist group, as stated on your website, is really stretching to get publicity. Get a life.
SMYRNA-X July 09, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Real nice of the patch writer to include the ems workers "burning desiel." Why would that be a relavent fact, or do you have an agenda too? These people would help you and your family at a moments notice and puting them in the situation does no service. Also another thought, did soviets move their checkpoints to accomadate protestor safety or announce locations?
SMYRNA-X July 09, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Darren I figured id get response, perhaps your back on your meds or enjoying refreshing summer sangria.
AmbiUbi78 July 09, 2012 at 06:30 PM
@Bob: These are Libertarians, NOT liberals. The two aren't even close. The rest of your thoughts I completely agree with.
Stephen Eickhoff July 10, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Did the police publicize both potential locations in the newspaper? If not, they are not in compliance with the US Supreme Court decision and are vulnerable to a suit.

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