Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long should save the county any further embarrassment and drop the charges against Lawrence Freeman, a black man arrested Dec. 23 for protesting the county government's hiring policies. It's time to agree to the American Civil Liberties Union's request for a dismissal and admit that this arrest was a mistake that going to trial would only compound.
Freeman was arrested as he sat on a park bench in front of the county administration building, holding up a notebook-sized piece of paper which charged that the "Washington County Commissioners won't hire black men." County officials said he had been inside the county office building the previous day, posting papers with a similar message, and was reportedly upset when they were removed.
If Freeman had been inside the building when he was arrested, disrupting the functions of county government, that would have been another story. But when police put the handcuffs on him, he was sitting on a bench outside the building, engaged in a peaceful protest of a policy he believed was unfair.