I just returned from Richmond’s Oliver Hill court building, where they had the initial hearing for the 31 Virginians arrested on the steps of the State Capitol recently. They were arrested during a peaceful rally to oppose the ludicrous legislation that is being forced on us by the GOP “majority”. They are all charged with “trespass” and “unlawful assembly” after they sat on the Capitol steps and refused to move to the “Free speech” area of the Capitol grounds. The judge set dates for the next phases of the proceedings as follows:
April 20th Written motions by the Defense.
May 11th Written motions by the Commonwealth.
May 25th at 10:00 AM Oral arguments regarding the motions.
June 19th at 11:00 AM Trial!
It was rather comical to see almost the entire group of 31 called, one at a time, along with a group of lawyers to stand before the judge. I don’t think that the designer of that courthouse had in mind the idea that 31 people would ever be tried at the same time! The group was a real cross section of Virginia, old and young, men and women, black and white and all looked the perfect picture of respectability. If I was to have a dinner party and they were all the guests, I would be very pleased to see them and raise a glass in their honor!
I came within a hair’s breadth of being one of them that day, but for the intervention of the cooler head of Eileen Davis, I stepped back at the last second and merely observed, with an ominous feeling that I was somehow betraying those brave people.
How can a member of the public be accused of trespassing on public property? What does public property mean if not that it is the rightful place for the public to be? And what about the 1st amendment, that says: “Congress shall make no law………….or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”
The 31 are definitely “the people” and they were seeking to petition for the redress of a serious grievance, namely the imposition of a new law that clearly violates a woman’s rights, by forcing her to undergo an unnecessary medical procedure against her will and (to add insult to injury) to force her to pay for it herself!
If the McDonald administration believes that it is acting within the law to preposition a swat team and another heavily armed police team to augment the Capitol police, simply to harass and arrest a peaceful group of disgruntled Virginians, then he is not paying attention to the real world. You would have thought that, at a time when Virginia was the laughing stock of the nation for the obvious overreach of his GOP colleagues in the General Assembly, not to mention in light of his larger ambitions on the National stage, that he would have gone out of his way to avoid anything as patently ridiculous as these arrests and these hollow charges.
In the past, I have personally witnessed a large group of heavily armed citizens meeting on the grounds of the Capitol in Richmond and shouting, even screaming, for their “right” to overthrow the elected government by force of arms, while a handful of Capital police just stood their ground and watched. How can a group, comprised mostly of women and children with handful of men, who are all unarmed, pose a greater threat to security that they have to be arrested and taken to court.
Something is seriously out of whack in this country when a person can be arrested immediately for throwing flour on a celeb, but another can shoot dead an unarmed boy and walk free moments later.
Justice is often portrayed as wearing a blindfold, to symbolize impartiality, not to symbolize blindness!