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Beach-access arrest was not ‘fake news’

The following article appeared as a Letter To The Editor in The Westerly Sun on January 17, 2020.

by Scott Keeley, Charlestown

I was startled and dismayed to read in the recently published Sun article “Filippi to brief Charlestown council on shoreline access a statement attributed to Town Council President Virginia Lee characterizing my trespass arrest this past summer as one that I provoked: “Because of the provoked arrest in South Kingstown, there was concern in Charlestown about public access.”

Ms. Lee has positioned herself, by this assessment, as judge and jury concerning an event that she did not witness, about which she has not spoken to me, a citizen of her town, and concerning which she clearly did not do her homework. The correct term is wrongful arrest; because they realized it was a wrongful arrest, the South Kingstown police dropped the charges and expunged the record. Or perhaps another appropriate term would be illegal arrest, as was stated in the complaint filed against the town, and about which the town seemingly agreed because they settled the case.

At the Charlestown Town Council meeting on Aug. 13, 2019, the town council adopted a Resolution Relative to Public Access to the Shoreline by unanimous vote. At that meeting, Ms.

Lee touted herself as being extremely knowledgeable about shoreline issues and having been protective of the rights of members of the public to access the shoreline for “40 years.” In spite of numerous shoreline homeowners at that meeting pressing the members of the council, yelling out and making their own false claims about my arrest having been “staged” and that it was “fake news,” the council adopted the resolution.

Now Ms. Lee’s use of the term “provoked arrest” seems to signify her agreement with the irate homeowners that nobody should be on the shoreline, aka their “front yard.” Is this Ms.

Lee just being the sort of politician that speaks out of both sides of her mouth or does she truly believe that peacefully exercising my Rhode Island constitutional rights is a provocation for which my arrest was justified? Feel free to give me a call, Ms. Lee. As one of your constituents, I believe I am owed at least that before you judge me. We can meet in my garden, which is soaking up all the nutrients from the seaweed strewn all over it.

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