The company that owns a gun store that recently opened in Arlington’s Lyon’s Park community is suing 64 people, saying that by protesting the store’s opening they participated in a “conspiracy to injure another in his trade or business.” Seven Virginia government officials are named in the suit, including Virginia state Delegates Mark H. Levine and Patrick Alan Hope and state Senators Janet Denison Howell and Barbara Favola. The store, NOVA Armory, is asking for $2,101,441.14; it says the damages include lost revenue, physical and personal protection expenses, phone number changes and time lost related to said phone number changes, and damages to the business’ good will and reputation.
On March 2, seven of elected public officials in Virginia who are named in the suit signed a letter that asked the store’s landlord to reconsider granting NOVA Armory a lease. The suit, filed on April 18, states that the action “constituted an abuse of official authority.” The purpose of the “conspiracy” as stated in the court document, was to run NOVA Armory “out of business at the Arlington County location by the use of unlawful means.”
Before the gun store’s opening, Daniel L. Hawes, the attorney for NOVA Armory owner Broadstone Security, told Washingtonian, “What these people are doing is not within the scope of their legislative duties. They’re not acting as state legislators in doing this. They’re using the power of their office to attempt to shut my client’s store down.”
Additionally, the complaint states that the people named in suit “have characterized themselves as ‘protesters'” but that “they have merely been disruptors, attempting to destroy Plaintiff’s business and reputation, stalking the store with signs, parking cars covered with documents referring to horrible deaths, attempting to coërce and intimidate tenants of the same facility, etc.” It also refers to the protesters as a “criminal gang.”
One of the people named in the suit is Hoda Moustafa, a member of the group Act 4 Lyon Park, which opposes the store. The suit quotes a March 17 Washingtonian article in which Moustafa said, “This is not a short-term opposition. This is a long-term battle, and we’re not giving up.”
That article, Hawes writes, was about the “goals and purposes of the conspiracy.”
Favola, who represents the Lyon Park senate district, said that she was not aware of the lawsuit when Washingtonian contacted her this afternoon. “We did not misuse our office,” Favola said, regarding the letter signed in early March. “We made a statement representing the case on why citizens say [NOVA Armory] shouldn’t be there. We make judgements every day of how to represent our constituents.”