It all started with two American flags upside down on a fence.
A conservative-rights foundation has sued several Veterans Affairs police officers and officials for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of a 75-year-old military veteran who has protested at a VA facility in West Los Angeles for almost a decade, according to documents obtained Wednesday.
The lawsuit — filed by attorneys for Judicial Watch in federal court in Los Angeles — seeks damages and asks the court to enjoin further violations of Robert Rosebrock’s constitutional rights.
It also asks the court to declare invalid a law VA officials have used to prohibit photography on the public sidewalk where Rosebrock holds his regular Sunday afternoon protests.
The lawsuit names VA Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and VA Police Officers Michael Perez, Joel Henderson and Christopher Perez, among others. A call for comment to the VA Affairs media office after regular business hours was not immediately returned.
In April, Rosebrock was acquitted by a judge of illegally hanging an American flag on the fence of the VA facility without permission. The federal misdemeanor count against Rosebrock stemmed from a VA statute that prohibits the posting of materials or “placards” on a VA property except when authorized by the head of the facility.
Rosebrock was cited on Memorial Day 2016 for allegedly displaying two napkin-sized American flags on a fence adjacent to the “Great Lawn Gate” entrance to the Veterans Park.
He and fellow veterans assemble at the site nearly every Sunday and Memorial Day to protest what they think is the VA’s failure to make full use of the expansive property for the benefit and care of veterans, particularly homeless veterans.
At the conclusion of the trial, U.S. Magistrate Judge Steve Kim found Rosebrock not guilty of the violation, which carries a maximum six-month prison sentence. The judge concluded that no evidence was presented showing Rosebrock lacked permission to post the flags or that Rosebrock had displayed them in the first place.
Rosebrock initially faced two additional counts for allegedly taking unauthorized photos of a VA police officer at the VA’s Great Lawn Gate without permission.
The VA argued the statute was necessary to guard against invasive and distracting media activities and to protect veterans’ privacy. But the court rejected that claim, finding that if the VA wanted to protect veterans’ privacy, it would ban all photography, not just photography for news, commercial or advertising purposes.
— City News Service