Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Breaking Through the Allegations: Perriello, Tea Party Protesters, and the Police

Over this past weekend it appears that a tea party narrative has been forming: Rep. Perriello will do everything in his power - even utilize the full extent of the law - to hide from tea party protesters. Of course, this is patently absurd. Here's what happened.

Last week tea partiers protested outside Perriello's Charlottesville office, and during the demonstration, the police were called. Tea partiers felt that Perriello's office called the police, angry at the protest outside. Today, the Republican blogosphere is going crazy about this (1, 2, 3). But after some fact-checking, the Daily Progress discovered that Perriello's office did not call the police. A neighboring business, apparently, did so. Saith the Daily Progress:
(UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s office did not contact police about protesters gathered outside his Charlottesville headquarters, according to emergency communi-cation center records.) [emphasis mine]
Lowell has a scanned copy of the clip if you want to see it.

On Friday, at the opposite end of the district, Danville, tea partiers also demonstrated on Perriello's office. On Saturday, they again showed up when Secretaries Chu and Vilsack visited the area to talk about rural economies, agriculture, and green energy. At the event, several tea partiers were apparently asked to leave the premises. Star News out of Danville/Reidsville even had a special show last night discussing these allegations, nevermind interviewing clearly sympathetic to the tea partiers. Since I was at the event, I can offer my eye-witness perspective, and I called Perriello's Press Secretary, Jessica Barba, for an on-the-record accounting of the events. Importantly, this event was hosted by the USDA and the Obama Administration, so Perriello had no control over the event, as it wasn't organized by his office.

Tea Partiers have been stating that the questions were staged at the event, seen in Perriello's calling specific people by name, and that Perriello purposefully and deliberately overlooked their questions, afraid to answer the tough questions. On Star News, the tea party organizer, Nigel Coleman, made these assertions - assertions corroborated by Del. Danny Marshall, though, Marshall fairly would not subscribe intent to Perriello. Here's what I saw: there were between 200-250 people at the event, and, since I was in the back during the Q&A, I can say that dozens upon dozens of people raised their hands to ask Perriello and the Secretaries questions - too many for each potential questioner to ask his/her question. To me, the Q&A did not look staged, and because of the slew of raised hands, no one was purposefully overlooked during the questions. Barba said that no one was given a question beforehand and that no one was purposefully neglected in the choice of questioners. She highlighted that, to the contrary, Perriello has held townhalls throughout the district, and that Perriello has much experience - even enjoys - taking the tough questions.

Tea partiers have implied either that Perriello asked the police to remove dissenters from the property or that the police department - or some other agent - was overzealous in the defense of Perriello, even intimidating protesters days later. As Star News put it, citizens were silenced. I did not see anyone asked to leave the property, and, obviously, I cannot speak for the police department. Barba said that Perriello had no knowledge that protesters were asked to leave the premises; he was even surprised to learn about the incident the next morning. With this in mind, according to Barba, Perriello and his staffers were not involved, in any way, with the actions of the police. On Star News, the event host, Buddy Mayhew, stated that he had told the police department, days beforehand, that, as it was his private property, he did not want any demonstrations - of any kind - on his property; he did not want to distract from the purpose and specialness of the event.

As an office policy, Barba said, no staff person is allowed to call the police unless there are threats of physical violence. The voicing of our disagreement are First Amendment principles, and the Congressman welcomes differences of opinion. By all accounts, the protests were/were to be non-violent, and as the facts show, Perriello and his staff did not involve the police in either circumstance.

Psychologically speaking, the presence of police is distressing and anxiety-provoking to be sure. To subscribe ulterior motives, however, contrary to the facts on the ground, to Rep. Perriello or his staff is intellectually lazy at best, partisan-hackery at worst. I do not know the intentions underlying these assertions, but I would ask that people take a deep breath and let the facts emerge. Don't jump to hasty, unfounded conclusions, and do not demonize the Congressman, because of disagreement, for these unfortunate incidences.

Of note, Rep. Perriello has met with Tea Partiers before in Charlottesville. According to Barba, to her knowledge and to the knowledge of Perriello's scheduler, there has been no request for tea partiers in Danville to meet with Perriello - Barba and the scheduler will double check to be sure. She also said that Perriello would be happy to meet with the tea partiers in Danville in the future.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

good stuff.

Katie said...

What (s)he said.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. It is true that the Tea Partiers have met with Perriello in his Charlottesville office. A Tea Party member even wrote a letter to the editor bitching about not getting what they wanted. I'm glad the blog community is on this, because the dish rag daily progress has said nothing!

A Faithful Reader said...

It is always interesting that the "Tea Party Crowd" accuse Congressman Perriello, a Democrat, with the traditional tactic of Republicans, stacking news conferences with questioners and softball questions. To them it is unthinkable that a representative could be secure enough in his skin and his intellect to allow everyone to come to an event. As for calling the police, this is the same Tom Perriello who faced down warlords in the Middle East and Africa. The Tea Party crowd had another trip to Fantasyland at our expense.

Anonymous said...

I have tried not to just wildly sling allegations at Rep. Perriello. His office told me that they did not know we were there. I take them at their word. However being tailed by the police and haing Bobby visited by officers seems to step over a line. Someone alerted security to our presence, they explained this to Bobby Conner when they were at his house. There were other groups there and I hope no one is trying to just single out Perriello AND YES CHENEY AND BUSH HAVE TRIED FAKE TOWN HALL MEETINGS TOO. Hell they might have been able to tap my phone because of them. but don't get me started on Bush/Cheney. I've let the last 8 years go, you should as well.

Nigel Coleman
Danville TEA party chairman

CWPNRG? said...

To be fair, and I agree that conclusions should not be jumped to, there have been previous reports of Congressional staffs calling police on tea partiers.
So if the police showed up, it would have made sense that it was Perriello's people who called - they have the most obvious motive.
So while jumping to conclusions is bad, that particular conclusion does make sense.

Anonymous said...

Its unfortunate the police showed up at the event. Will "the neighbors" continue to call the police at upcoming tea party demonstrations? Lets hope not because then people may jump to the conclusions as well.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the reason the business in question called the police was not because of the content of the protest, but because customers were unable to come into the parking lot to patronize businesses that share the same building. Something the tea folks might want to consider... if the tea people are truly pro-business, they may want to let businesses actually have access to their customers.

Anonymous said...

I know what you're saying... that first amendment just burns my ass. How dare someone actually exercise it.

skeptical independent said...

I've had third graders come up with a better smoke screen than this attempt. "I did not see", "aparently, did so", "no control over the event", you've got to be kidding me! If dissent is patriotic for one side then it is for both. Let's admit that there are folks of honestly held convictions on both sides and listen to what is being said and look at the facts rather than cover up our mistakes.

Anonymous said...

FaithReader says:

"... the traditional tactic of Republicans, stacking news conferences ..."

Assertion without proof.

Or, to use your style:

"Assertion without proof, a favorite tactic of lefty wingnuts ..."

Shannon Love said...

So, does that let them off the hook for locking the doors and lowering the blinds?

I can only imagine the outrage if a group of leftist protestors, especially minority protestors, showed up at a Republican's office and the staff responded in such a fashion.

Shannon Love said...

Here's a link to the The Daily Progess article mentioned in the parent.

Anonymous said...

"It is always interesting that the "Tea Party Crowd" accuse Congressman Perriello, a Democrat, with the traditional tactic of Republicans, stacking news conferences with questioners and softball questions."

You know when I read sentences like this I have to laugh. Yeah, traditional tactic of the Republicans and the Democrats.

Anonymous said...

look ya'll, after living in berzerkley california for a number of years i can attest that there are plenty of out of control angry people on the left that are all too happy to go down to telegraph ave and smash windows. it's like local ritual. this attitude that the quote unquote tea party crowd are somehow a bunch of angry wackjobs is really amusing to me considering that the left has wing nuts that throw tantrums all the time. give me a break!

Anonymous said...

This argument makes no sense. If someone else called the cops, who and why? There was an assertion that someone in Perriello's office had their car blocked, but when this happens with most gatherings the police just show up and help the person get their car out, they don't disperse the crowd the way they did here. Sorry, this explanation doesn't make sense, it sounds like something made up. You liberals know if a conservative made this defense you would never believe it, but you'll believe any hollow excuse from a political hack you support - that's how politics works, and why we're failing as a country, because people are blinded to BS by their ideological allegiances.

Anonymous said...

Listen to/watch the interview w/Mr. Mahew whose farm was the location of the event. Mr. Mahew stated himself that he, prior to the event, contacted law enforcement and asked that 'protests' or similar not be allowed to disrupt or interrupt the event. It is private property and he had the right to do so. On the other hand: Mr. Goode was a Republican representative when there was a Republican president and cabinet. He had the same opportunity, over several years, to invite and host Cabinet members to any event he could put together. The highest officials, with Goode, could have been visiting the farmer in Gretna who is growing switchgrass for alternative fuel source. Alas, he did not take advantage of the advantage he had when it was within his grasp, his access to the administration.

Anonymous said...

To the point: Try to get access to the tv interview w/Mr. Mahew where the event was held for the Cabinet Secretaries. Mr. Mahew stated that he contacted law enforcement prior to the event to ask them to not allow disruption or interruption on (his)private property. On the other hand: Mr. Goode had the same opportunity to ask officials of the (his party's) Bush administration to come visit the
5th district. He had the same chance (for years) to invite the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy to visit the 'farmer in Gretna who's growing switchgrass' for an alternative fuel. But alas, he didn't accomplish that -- not even the Secretary of Labor to visit his economically distressed district. Nor the president. Nor another group of Representatives who were sympathetic to fighting NAFTA. It's Congressman Perriello's time to work at it now.

Anonymous said...

Listen to/watch the interview w/Mr. Mahew whose farm was the location of the event. Mr. Mahew stated himself that he, prior to the event, contacted law enforcement and asked that 'protests' or similar not be allowed to disrupt or interrupt the event. It is private property and he had the right to do so. On the other hand: Mr. Goode was a Republican representative when there was a Republican president and cabinet. He had the same opportunity, over several years, to invite and host Cabinet members to any event he could put together. The highest officials, with Goode, could have been visiting the farmer in Gretna who is growing switchgrass for alternative fuel source. Alas, he did not take advantage of the advantage he had when it was within his grasp, his access to the administration.

Rich V. said...

Gee, Clare McCaskill used the same excuse "the neighbors" did it....LOL, it doesn't matter who did what. What matters is that "dissent is patriotic" right?

Anonymous said...

You really should have paid better attention at the Dems school of propaganda. People raising their hands for questions and all could not be called on as a defense of the stacking the congressman did to questions is not a defense to your own statement in the piece that he called on some of the questioners by NAME!! Wow and you probably report that Nancy does have the votes in the House for the anti-health care bill BO wants- even though democratic congressman laughed out loud at her assertion and no vote scheduled in the House demonstrates the truth. You should not have been linked to Insta- usually there is something of honesty to most of the post they recommend.

Rich said...

It is amazing to me how many of those "neighbors" call the police and flipp the bird at the potestors. These congress people should really have there offices in better neighborhoods.

If you beleive this you need a bit of help with reality.

The ruling class gets real upset (democrat and republican) when the people show up to protest - how dare they!

An Older Citizen said...

See the following url for news I read and am responding to:

http://southeastvirginia.blogspot.com/2009/07/danville-tea-party-members-booted-from.html

Let me get this straight, in the post 9/11 world where three high ranking national officials are meeting, it is expected that there would not be a police presence? On private property where the landowner's rights have weight, a peaceful protest group is asked to leave the private property, no police brutality is experienced and we are asked to feel what -- sorry, outraged, frightened?

According to accounts, the Tea Party folks left peacefully and went to a local diner where a police officer did what police officers do in a post 9/11 world -- they checked license plates for suspected criminals/terrorists/or other forms of bad people -- and no one got arrested -- making it seem like the police officer was satisfied that all present were law abiding folk.

I agree that the Tea Party protesters should have had some of their questions asked and answered as guests of the forum. I disagree that harm befell anyone. Perhaps it is my age, being raised in the 60s and 70s, protesters being hassled for me is when there are components of beatings, water cannons, tear gas, dogs and loss of freedoms -- not having one's license plate number checked against a police data base. In a world where domestic terrorism targets high ranking officials and ordinary citizens alike, I, for one, am glad our police are watching out and checking up.