Civil liberties group offers to interview arrestees and provide legal assistance to anyone whose free speech rights were violatedRichmond, VA – The ACLU of Virginia is offering to assist reproductive rights protestors who were arrested Saturday at the state Capitol, if their constitutional right to free speech was violated.
Approximately 1,000 demonstrators converged on the Capitol grounds to protest the passage of a bill to require pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound procedure prior to being allowed to have an abortion. Although organizers of the event had obtained a permit to use the areas near the Bell Tower in one corner of the Capitol grounds, some protestors proceed to sit on the steps of the Capitol Building.
The State Police Tactical Team, fully armed and with the help of plastic shields, then arrested protestors sitting on the steps, who had locked arms and refused to move.
“We do not know yet if anyone’s free speech rights were violated,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “We do know, however, that from all appearances the police overreacted to a situation in which peaceful demonstrators gathered at a public place to exercise their First Amendment right to protest the government.”
“At the very least the spirit of the First Amendment took a blow on Saturday when the state used completely unnecessary military-style force to arrest peaceful protestors,” added Willis.
Anyone who witnessed the arrests or was arrested is encouraged to contact ACLU of Virginia Dunn Fellow Tom Fitzpatrick at 804-644-8022 or acluva[at]acluva[dot]org.
Other organizations, including the Virginia State Conference NAACP, have criticized the heavy-handed tactics employed by the Capitol Police.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022