ST. CHARLES • The arrest Saturday afternoon of two anti-Barack Obama protesters on an Interstate 70 overpass is stirring controversy - fueled by a video of the incident circulating on the internet.
The two — Marc S. Messmer, 41, of St. Charles, and Jimmy D. "Duane" Weed, 57, of Bridgeton — say that their constitutional rights were violated.
"Citizens have a right to peaceably assemble," said Messmer, who was part of a series of overpass demonstrations around the country seeking the president's impeachment. "We were simply doing that. There were no laws broken."
Sgt. Al Nothum, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol, said the potential for a traffic hazard was why the two and 10 or so other protesters were told by officers to leave the Fairgrounds Road overpass about 2 p.m.
The two were arrested, he said, for failing to obey. Nothum said the patrol wants charges filed but prosecutors have yet to decide. The patrol also wants Messmer to be charged with resisting arrest.
Nothum said the traffic volume on I-70 was unusually heavy Saturday because of the many motorists heading to St. Charles' annual Festival of the Little Hills.
The patrol supervisor at the scene, Nothum said, "was concerned people are going to be distracted" by the protesters' banners and a serious crash could result.
"People are looking up when they should be looking forward," Nothum said of drivers.
Earlier Saturday, he said, there had been five accidents near the location; no one was seriously injured.
Nothum said the patrol doesn't believe the protesters intended to cause any traffic problems but that it could have become an unintentional "outcome of what they were doing."
Weed, who made the video, and Messmer insisted that their group wasn't causing any problems. "We were not on the road; we created no traffic hazard whatsoever," Messmer said.
Both supported former Rep. Ron Paul's bid for the Republican presidential nomination last year. However, they emphasized that the protests involved people who backed various candidates.
Messmer and Weed both complained they were kept in a holdover area for 24 hours at the St. Charles County Jail and released Sunday afternoon.
Nothum pointed out that the patrol did not take any action against people involved in similar overpass protests Saturday in Wentzville and Springfield, Mo. The traffic in those areas wasn't as heavy, he said.
Messmer said he hopes enough attention will be generated in the arrest so officials "will see the errors of their ways" and charges won't be filed. Weed said he believes charges won't be filed.