Willow Grove-area motorists heading along Route 611 (Old York Road) on the evening of July 6 may encounter two things:
- A police sobriety checkpoint
- Protestors holding up signs to go the other way.
These protestors are part of a grass-roots organization, calling themselves the Valley Forge Revolutionaries.
“What we do is activism,” Darren Wolfe, spokesperson for the Valley Forge Revolutionaries, said. “No one has the right to initiate force on anyone else, and we believe on consistently applying that.”
The group, founded in 2007, describes its police checkpoint protests as “checkpoint nullification” events.
The scheduled July 6 checkpoint nullification comes off the heels of the group’s first such event on June 15.
According to Wolfe, who is a Royersford resident, the June 15 event took place in Upper Moreland, along Route 611, nearby the PA Turnpike Willow Grove Interchange.
During this event, approximately 10 members of the Valley Forge Revolutionaries stood on the sidewalks, a few blocks away from the checkpoint.
According to Wolfe, nearly double the amount of protestors are expected to join the July 6 checkpoint nullification.
At the first protest, the Valley Forge Revolutionaries waved homemade signs with reflective lettering, some of which read, “Cops Ahead Exit Now” or “Big Bro is Watching.” The protestors also vocally warned approaching motorists of the DUI checkpoint.
Wolfe, who runs a blog called, “The International Libertarian,” recorded the event with photographs and a video [see above media gallery].
During the video, it is apparent that the checkpoint nullification efforts had several instances of success in turning motorists around.
Warrantless and Arbitrary
According to Wolfe, the checkpoint nullification events are conducted to protect citizens' Fourth Amendment right, which, in part, guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. He explained that the DUI checkpoints are warrantless and arbitrary, and that such law enforcement activity goes against behavior of a free society.
“Every year, thousands of innocent victims fall prey to these heavily-armed gangs bent on lawless actions,” James Babb, founder of the Valley Forge Revolutionaries, said in a press release. “As a service to the community, the Valley Forge Revolutionaries will be volunteering on Friday to help prevent innocent citizens from being victimized.“
Babb is the co-founder and chairperson for the Montgomery County Libertarian Committee, and ran in 2004 and 2006 for state representative in legislative district 157 as the Libertarian candidate.
According to a New York Times article, in 1990, the Supreme Court of the United States did rule that such sobriety checkpoints do not violate constitutional rights, specifically addressing the preliminary questioning and observation by checkpoint officers.
However, Babb said that checkpoints are both ineffectual and fiscally irresponsible.
“Traditional police patrols are far more likely to locate genuinely impaired drivers than these suspiciousness checkpoints,” Babb said in the release. “So, not only are these checkpoints blatantly immoral and illegal, they’re also a waste of police time and tax dollars.”
Preventive Measure for Public Safety
During the video of the June 15 protest, Valley Forge Revolutionaries members did interact with Upper Moreland police. Although, it was apparent that such interactions were at times confrontational, the event ended without any protestors being arrested.
A note on The International Libertarian blog thanked protestors for exercising discipline and level-headedness during the event.
Local law-enforcement officials had equal sentiments.
“I felt that the officers did very well in ensuring that the people have a right to lawfully protest,” Thomas Nestel, Upper Moreland Police chief, said.
According to Nestel, the protestors have the legal right to assemble so long as they remained on the sidewalks. However, Nestel expressed confusion as to why sobriety checkpoints would be protested, if not to prevent motorists under the influence from being caught.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I never seen protestors at a DUI checkpoint,” Nestel said, adding that he does not find the protests as negative publicity for police. “I think it’s great for people to see what the police have to deal with.”
According to Nestel, sobriety checkpoints are helpful to law enforcement.
“It becomes a great word-of-mouth warning for those thinking of driving drunk,” Nestel said. “It’s a preventative measure for public safety.”
According to the Valley Forge Revolutionaries Facebook page, the group will gather at the parking lot for the July 9 checkpoint nullification event.
The protest is expected to take place from 9:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. near Abington Hospital along Route 611. For more information, contact Darren Wolfe at 484-932-8395 or e-mail at CheckpointNullification@hotmail.com .