ACLU of Virginia Concerned that Police Overreacted in Arresting 31 Reproductive Rights Protestors at State Capitol

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
March 5, 2012 12:00 am

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ACLU of Virginia
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Civil liberties group offers to interview arrestees and provide legal assistance to anyone whose free speech rights were violated.

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

Richmond, 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 804-644-8080 or

Other organizations, including the Virginia State Conference NAACP, have criticized the heavy-handed tactics employed by the Capitol Police.

In a statement released earlier today, Suten King Salim Khalfani, Executive Director of the Virginia NAACP, wrote: “If the Commonwealth would sic its military on primarily peaceful, white, females what will the State do when the Latinos, Asians, Indigenous Native people or Africans come out in great numbers participating in the legislative process? The Governor and General Assembly owe the citizens an apology and a change in whatever policy that directed them to do what they did on Saturday evening past and since citizen advocacy has intensified at the General Assembly.”

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