CHARLOTTE, NC (CNN) -- Protests so far at the Democratic National Convention have been peaceful and there have only been a handful of arrests. But overshadowing all the success, one single incident has started raising questions about whether law enforcement tactics at these events have now crossed the line to the point of trying to suppress dissent.
Charlotte activist and organizer James Tyson was on his way to the march on wall street south when Charlotte-Mecklenburg police pulled him over. He says, "I personally believe that this was purely politically motivated. Solely, solely based on the pretext of getting me off the street, pushing me into a cell and throwing away the key as long as they possibly could."
Just before 10 a.m. Sunday morning, a Charlotte Mecklenburg police officer arrested James Tyson and locked him up. The police report said the only charge was that Tyson was allegedly driving with a revoked license.
That could have been the end of it. But the arresting officer filled out this form recommending Tyson not be released before his trial. The officer wrote: that (Tyson is a) "known activist and protester who is currently on a terrorist watch list. Request he be held due to d-n-c being a national special security event.
Tyson says he's no terrorist, and that he's been arrested twice. Once for fishing after the season ended, and last year the offense that got his license revoked in the first place. He says, "For DWI, which I really regret. But I took responsibility for my actions."
Typically, bond for driving with a revoked license in charlotte ranges from a couple hundred dollars to more than a couple thousand. But, in this case, the judge imposed a 10-thousand-dollar cash only bond and Tyson spent the night in jail.
The next morning, in a court hearing, Judge Lisa Bell reduced the bail to $2,500 but by then the arrest had already become controversial, a point Tyson's lawyer was happy to bring up. Derek Fletcher says, "I think it's censorship plain and simple and I have never seen a $10,000 cash bond on any sort of traffic charge as a practicing attorney in this county."
the county district attorney admitted "the bond was not typical for a revoked license charge."
but he did say the document from the arresting officer "heightens our concerns for public safety."
despite numerous requests charlotte-mecklenburg police would not comment on the case.
A local law professor, who runs a clinic on protecting the constitutional rights of clients, says the officer's intent is the key factor. Assistant professor at Charlotte School of Law Jason Huber says, "The question is whether or not the stop and the arrest and the attempt to get an unreasonably high bond amount was really a pretext for the police officer's selective motivation to censor the individual's political activity. If that's the case, then you're in First Amendment territory. Otherwise if it was a legitimate stop supported by probable cause in a legitimate arrest, driving without a license is a crime for which you can be taken to jail."
federal source in Charlotte would only use one word to describe this case, calling it "drama," suggesting it had been overly hyped. No federal source would say Tyson was on any watch list, although it certainly is possible. No one said Tyson is under federal charges for anything.