A New Port Richey pastor was arrested after police said he refused to sign a citation he received for violating a buffer zone while protesting at a Clearwater abortion clinic on Saturday.
Victor Allan McCleskey, 61, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of refusing to sign a traffic citation at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday.
McCleskey and another man, 26-year-old Nicholas Bosstick of Brooksville, were given citations Saturday morning after they violated a buffer zone while they protested outside the Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, Clearwater police said. The two men were the first to be cited for violating the buffer zone, according to Clearwater police spokesperson Rob Shaw.
The buffer zone was approved unanimously by the Clearwater City Council earlier this month. It prohibits protesters from entering the center’s driveway and 5 feet of the sidewalk on either side of the driveway. The citations come with a $130 fine.
The measure was backed by the city’s police chief, Dan Slaughter, who said the buffer zone would help law enforcement manage confrontations when responding to calls there. The buffer zone also had the backing of then-mayor Frank Hibbard, who resigned Monday amid unrelated frustrations with the City Council. At the time of the buffer zone approval, Hibbard said that even though he considers himself “pro-life,” and struggled somewhat with the proposal, he believed it was a matter of safety for everyone involved.
At the City Council meeting, McCleskey, who is the pastor of KJV Baptist Church in New Port Richey, voiced his opposition to the buffer zone.
“We will continue to preach against the murder of babies and I believe we should be loud against the murder of little babies in the wombs,” he said at the time.
McCleskey was released from the Pinellas County Jail on his own recognizance Saturday afternoon.
In a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times following his arrest, he said he believed the buffer zone was unconstitutional and that he thought God didn’t want him to sign the citation.
“Most likely I would have gotten arrested anyway because I was not going to stay out of the buffer zone area,” McCleskey said.
Bosstick could not be reached for comment at phone numbers listed under his name.