By J. Harry Jones / Union-Tribune / July 17, 2008
A Ramona man who drove his pickup toward a group of anti-war protesters last month has been charged with misdemeanor reckless driving. Keith Alan Davis, 55, was sent a letter Thursday ordering him to appear in court July 31. Davis could face up to six months in jail if convicted. Such cases, however, usually don’t result in jail time.
Davis said he was only expressing his First Amendment right of self expression when he drove slowly onto the shoulder of state Route 67 near the intersection of Dye Road in Ramona June 29 and displayed his middle finger to each person protesting. He said he felt the protesters were “un-American.”
The protesters, however, say they had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit, and that Davis ran over several of their signs with messages such as “End the War in Iraq,” and “Support Our Troops, Send Them Home Now.”
“We reviewed the case carefully, read all the reports, and this was our conclusion about what charges he should face,” said Deputy District Attorney Dan Lamborn, chief of the El Cajon branch of the District Attorney’s Office.
The protesters have been gathering at the intersection from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. every Friday for the past several months. Route 67 is usually bumper-to-bumper with commuters at those hours.
A Sheriff’s Department report said Davis told investigators “he wanted to look each one of the protesters in the face and tell them what he thought of them.” Davis said he was not trying to hurt anyone and doesn’t remember hitting any signs.
“Regardless of the charges, the driver must be punished because he threatened law-abiding citizens exercising their guaranteed constitutional rights,” David Patterson, a leader of the protest group, said in a statement. “However, we should all be saddened because the driver is yet another victim created by the pro-war propaganda machine. The driver has been indoctrinated by the Bush administration and conservative talk radio to believe that anyone standing publicly against the war is somehow un-American.”
Robert Dobson, who was counter-protesting across the highway with a “Victory for Our Troops” sign when the incident occurred, told deputies that after Davis gestured at the protesters, he then gave a thumbs-up sign to him and smiled widely. In an interview, Dobson the protesters had to scatter to avoid being hit. Dobson was critical of Davis did.
[Go here for the original article on SignOnSanDiego.]