You’ve probably seen the AP story by now, but this week, along with the ACLU of Delaware, we filed suit against a Delaware police officer and a “Jane Doe” on behalf of two young women who were arrested and three others who were threatened with arrest at a book signing event for Rick Santorum at a Wilmington-area Barnes & Noble solely because of their political views. The event had been advertised as a signing for Santorum’s book, It Takes a Family, and a “discussion” with the senator. Several of the women were from PA, and wanted to use the opportunity to share their views with their elected representative. (I apologize in advance for all the “allegedly’s” in this story, but the lawyers make me do it. And they can be bossy.)
Turns out that the event’s organizer’s idea of “discussion” was “saying only nice things about the senator.” When she (“Jane Doe”)overheard the women talking and realized they were not, shall we say, Santorum supporters, she ordered a uniformed cop (hired by the event organizers – not Barnes & Noble) to remove them. (The t-shirt saying “Radical Feminist” worn by one of the women might also have tipped them off.)
The cop in question, Sgt. DiJiacomo, allegedly had no problem following orders and adding his own unique take on the situation. Not only did he threaten them with arrest if they did not leave immediately, he threatened those over 18 with prosecution for contributing to the delinquency of those who were minors. According to our suit, he also told them that an arrest would have a negative impact on their ability to get into college.
The story gets even more ridiculous. When two of the women asked why they were being ejected, they were arrested and escorted outside to DiJiacomo’s vehicle. They were allegedly told that they were banned for life from the Barnes & Noble and the mall in which it was located. According to our suit, the officer was never instructed by Barnes & Noble staff to eject our clients from the bookstore or ban them for life, nor did the mall ask that our clients be banned for life.
One of the women, Hannah Shaffer, who had left without being arrested called her mother to be picked up. When Hannah’s mother found out what happened, she went inside to find the police officer or store employee to find out why her daughter had been kicked out. While Mrs. Shaffer was in the store, Sgt. DiJiacomo allegedly saw Hannah in the car and attempted to arrest her. Her mother came back to the car at this point and interrupted the confrontation.
Mrs. Shaffer informed the sergeant that a store employee had informed her that our plaintiffs were welcome to return to the Barnes & Noble. Sgt. DiJiacomo allegedly told her that neither the Barnes & Noble nor the mall had the authority to allow the women to return to the store. According to our complaint, Sgt. DiJiacomo then threatened Mrs. Shaffer with arrest for contributing to the delinquency of minors.
Truly ridiculous stuff.