George Allen Heckler Assaulted

Yet another bizarre incident captured on video in the tight U.S. Senate race in Virginia pitting Republican incumbent George Allen against Jim Webb.

Michael Shear and Tim Craig in today’s WaPo (page A13, so relatively buried):

A Democratic activist who verbally confronted U.S. Sen. George Allen at a campaign rally in Charlottesville yesterday was shoved, put into a headlock and thrown against a window by three men wearing Allen stickers, according to a widely disseminated video of the incident.

W. Michael Stark, who identified himself in an e-mail after the incident as a University of Virginia law student, yelled a question at Allen (R) about whether he had ever spit on his first wife, an unsubstantiated charge that has been circulating on liberal blogs on the Internet [As opposed to liberal blogs not on the Internet? – ed.] . Allen supporters hauled him away from the senator as television cameras rolled. “I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government,” Stark wrote in an e-mail.

Charlottesville Police Lt. Gary Pleasants said Stark reported the incident yesterday and indicated that he wanted to press assault charges against the men. Pleasants said police are investigating and trying to determine the names of the Allen staffers involved. “We will find out who the people are, give him the information and he can go to the magistrate and try to obtain a warrant for them,” Pleasants said.

Jon Henke, blogging for the Allen campaign, describes it this way:

Today in Charlottesville, Mike Stark, a Democratic activist and Webb supporter with a history of aggressively harassing Senator Allen and pulling stunts for media attention, crashed a campaign event, tried to push his way into a crowd and then engaged in a struggle with the people who he had been forcing his way past.

He lost the mutual struggle, which has led to Democrats alleging that he was ‘assaulted’. However, first contact was initiated by Mike Stark.

Aside from being a Democratic activist — and “hopeful that I can be useful to the Webb campaign” — Mike Stark has a history of what he calls “guerrilla tactics“.

Video of the event, from CNN, is available at Hot Air and AlterNet. Via email, Henke mentions a “fuller video” that puts things into context; I’ve responded asking for a copy. [Update: The “fuller video” is just the CNN coverage at AlterNet, previously linked. Apparently, there was previously a snippet being shown that didn’t include the lead-in.]

This version certainly doesn’t reflect well on Allen. The fact that Stark is a former Marine doesn’t help, either. Indeed, Steven Taylor thinks this might be the final nail in Allen’s coffin:

I have seen such scenarios numerous times on video over the years where a politicians is approached by someone wishing to make a scene. I have not, however, seen that person taken down by persons in the politicians entourage. Normally the politicians endures the persons until he can leave and until security arrives to ask the person to go. Stark did nothing to deserve fingers in his face, a headlock and being pushed to the ground.

It is remarkable on a number of levels that anyone associated with the Allen campaign would act like that with cameras present.

Indeed, this is at least the second time (the infamous Macaca incident being the first) a Webb operative managed to create a video incident at an Allen event. Stark is unabashed that this was his intention:

In a Monday posting on “Calling All Wingnuts,” the blog Stark publishes, he hinted that he would attempt to provoke Allen before the TV cameras. “Im also trying to `Roger and Me’ George Allen whenever I can,” Stark wrote, referring to director Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary in which he repeatedly tried to confront former General Motors’ chief executive Roger Smith about the company’s downsizing.

Several conservative bloggers seem to believe that Stark therefore got what was coming to him. I would argue, though, that he got exactly what he wanted: National attention to a scurrilous charge previously limited to the nuttier lefty blogs along with footage of Allen supporters acting like goons.

And this is pretty weak excuse to assault someone for asking a question:

According to a news release from Allen’s campaign, the incident began when Stark pushed an Allen staffer. “Later, volunteers restrained him and asked to leave the building when he approached the senator a second time, asking inappropriate questions,” the release said.

As to the charge, it would be appear to be untrue:

Allen’s former wife, Anne Waddell, who lives in California, said that she and Allen divorced more than 22 years ago, and that because it was a personal matter they sealed the divorce records. She issued a statement calling Stark’s question “a baseless, cheap shot.”


Contempt would be a better response to those such as Stark. Who has rather solid ground to stand on here:

Stark said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press: “I am a constituent. I am allowed to ask my U.S. senator questions.”

One would think. Certainly, the campaign has the right to bar him from private events. But perhaps they should have hired some security guards?

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, Blogosphere, US Constitution, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Roger says:

    But perhaps they should have hired some security guards?

    Just as long as they aren’t members of the Hell’s Angels.

  2. Ugh says:

    Certainly, the campaign has the right to bar him from private events.

    I thought it occurred in a hotel lobby (and in fact, I think Stark said that if the hotel asked him to leave he would)?

  3. Mike says:

    Allen will still win not matter, by at least 3% points.

  4. Anderson says:

    Allen will still win not matter

    Is there an actual correlation b/t incoherence and Allen support? Maybe Kerry would vote for Allen, too, if he could?

  5. Mr. Stark is only the most recent epitome of the lack of goodwill and general incivility that has overtaken our political processes. I don’t know that it is wise to treat him as members of Senator Allen’s entourage did, but I can’t bring myself to shed a tear over any rough treatment he was clearly seeking and hoping would happen. In fact, cannot such a desire for attention and abuse qualify as a mental illness?

  6. Duke says:

    Mike is wrong! This is not the way politics happens in 3rd world countries. In a 3rd world country he would not have been lucky enough to be put in a headlock. He would have had his head sliced off on the downtown mall (Tienanmen Square) with all the liberal elitists of Charlotesville viewing.

    He’s lucky to be a resident of such a tolerant country that allows him to provoke an invited guest on private property.

    Best of luck to Mike and Kerry at energizing the Republican base and bringing out the vote next week.

  7. mdcraig says:

    Awoken this morning by radio alarm with local yokel ‘news’ guy parroting dem talking points about ‘stalking stark’ incident. Then the first article I found was AP/bob lewis breathlessly reporting about serious-sounding ‘chokehold’ occurrence. Uh-oh! Citizen-journalist. Vet!! Ex-Marine!!! It certainly sounded important. Upon closer look, however, including at the video:

    Apparent known stalker menacingly charges public servant engaged in campaign of ideas, screaming and knocking into several bystanders. When this ‘trained killer’ refuses to cease his attempted assault, he escalates the physical violence with those justifiably trying to remove him. Finally subdued and shown the door, he mutters ‘punk’.

    I think Kerry was wrong and mean-spirited when he maligned our brave troops, stating that servicemembers don’t “make the most of it” (education), don’t “study hard, …do… homework and …make an effort to be smart”. But these demeaning words would seem to apply to Stark.

    Stark’s website gives some clues about his depth of committment to and definition of free speech. There he advises one to “study the terrain carefully before you join the battle”, the final step being the ‘showdown”. We see in the video Stark studying the terrain as he careened through innocents in his attempt to assault Allen. This (one-man) mob rule is what goes for intellectual discourse for liberals.

    It seems that Stark’s only other claim to fame is waving a poster with lurid words on it in front of a live-television camera during family hour. Another example of liberals’ engagement in the realm of ideas. Were those filthy words an ‘illuminative quote” from one of Webb’s porno works? Will Webb have the guts to apologize for these apparent criminal acts of his agent provocateur?