Protesters targeting sobriety checkpoints
CARBONDALE – Protesters held flags and signs and passed out literature in Carbondale on a recent Saturday night as police from across the region staged the area’s third sobriety checkpoint of the summer. Despite these objections, Carbondale police chief Gene Schilling, the man heading up this summer’s DUI checkpoints, said police are following the letter of the law and have done nothing wrong. Police stop cars randomly during these sobriety checkpoints to check if drivers are sober. Police say the practice has been challenged in court, but remains legal. Those opposed to the checkpoints say they violate Americans’ constitutional right to protection from illegal search and seizure. Carbondale resident Barry Maggert, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Carbondale Board of Trustees in April’s election, said he was driving home from Glenwood Springs when he noticed the checkpoint and the people who were actively protesting it. “I said, ‘I’ve got to help them,'” Maggert said.The protesters held signs and flags and passed out fliers with the title, “CHECKPOINTS VIOLATE YOUR RIGHTS.”Printed just beneath this title is the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which restricts unreasonable search and seizure. The fliers urge people to refuse searches by police and states that “checkpoints were commonly used by the Third Reich, fascists, socialists and communists as a way to CONTROL THE PEOPLE.””I just happened to be driving by and I disagreed” with the checkpoint, Maggert said. “There were probably six or seven of those folks.”Schilling said the protesters are becoming a common sight at the sobriety checkpoints.”We’ve had them off and on for the last four or five (checkpoints),” he said. “They say we’re violating their rights and we say we’re doing it the way we’re supposed to.” In the latest checkpoint, which was set up on Highway 133 in Carbondale, there were 545 cars stopped between 6 p.m. on Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. Of those, four drivers were arrested for variations of driving under the influence. Maggert said when he tried to pass fliers out to people who were pulled over, police told him he couldn’t be in the police “safety zone.” Maggert said he feels those actions violated the his Constitutional right to free speech, so he ignored officers’ pleas.Maggert said he was dismayed to see that when the vehicles were pulled over, police were not only checking to find drunken drivers, but other officers were shining their flashlights into the back windows of each car. “So they were doing more than DUIs, they’re searching every car is what they’re doing,” Maggert said. Schilling said he’s looking at the possibility that there will be one more DUI checkpoint over Labor Day weekend.