Democratic Activist Claims Abuse by Allen's Staffers

By Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

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. 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.

On the video, Stark was heckling Allen about rumors that embarrassing material is contained in records from the senator's divorce. Those records have been sealed by a judge and are not accessible. Allen's current wife, Susan, is his second and the mother of his children.

Allen aides accused Democrats and the Webb campaign of orchestrating the event as a way of getting news organizations to write about the Internet rumor. "These are the typical Jim Webb tactics," said spokesman Dan Allen, no relation to the senator. "It was disappointing to see, and this certainly has no place in Virginia politics."

Kristian Denny Todd, a Webb spokesman, said Stark has no affiliation with the Webb campaign. "I have no idea who this guy is or what he was trying to accomplish," she said. "I saw the video, and from what I saw, he was wrestled to the ground by a bunch of Allen supporters so that is not very nice behavior."

Dan Allen said Stark pushed him as Stark tried to approach the senator and Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), who was campaigning with Allen. "He did it in a very menacing way," Dan Allen said.

Stark countered: "I never raised my hands above my waist. I was manhandled."

The event was recorded by a local television station and was broadcast widely yesterday on CNN. Within hours, the video was also uploaded to YouTube, a video-sharing Web site.

In the video, Stark can be seen being shoved back by several Allen supporters. A man puts Stark in a headlock, and Stark wiggles out and struggles. The man then wrestles Stark to the ground, knocking his head against a window.

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