Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breaking Through the Allegations: Perriello, Tea Party Protesters, and the Police (Day 2)

Another day of developments. Let's get to them.

Yesterday I mentioned that a tea party meme was emerging within the district, and today it solidified: Rep. Perriello is censoring and intimidating citizens, those who respectfully disagree with him (1, 2, 3, 4). Here is a nice right-wing political cartoon stating such.

With regard to the Charlottesville event, where cops were unfortunately called, matters seem to have calmed; the facts have emerged, and the truth has settled. Again, as the Daily Progress reported, according to "emergency communication centers," the Perriello office did not call the police. Helping to clear the air, Instapundit, a highly trafficked conservative blog, linked my to blog:
REP. TOM PERRIELLO DIDN’T CALL THE COPS ON TEA PARTY PROTESTERS. According to this report, it was the neighbors.
Well, then he back-tracked somewhat, but I do appreciate the intellectual honesty of Instapundit.

Although the facts are coming to light in the tea party incident on Buddy Mayhew's farm, you wouldn't know it from the heated rhetoric. Nigel Coleman, the Danville Tea Party Chair, who is at the center of this incident, gave a for-the-most-part thoughtful comment today on this blog. Money quote:
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 [sic] 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.
Coleman, to get to the bottom of his concerns, then sent a letter to Attorney General Mims asking the AG to investigate whether or not Rep. Perriello or his staff had involved the police in the event on the farm, an incident that Coleman believes led to intimidation and harrasment:
If such coordination between the police and Rep. Perriello's office did in fact take place, we believe it is compelling to learn under whose direction and instigation. If you find that it was instigated by Rep. Perriello and/or a member of his staff, we believe the line has been crossed and legal action is required.
Soon after this letter was sent to the AG, however, the Danville Tea Party sent out this press release, with Coleman listed as the contact person - a press release full of "wildly slung allegations." It begins:
Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., may be using the state police and local law enforcement to harass and intimidate citizens who have publicly expressed opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trillion-dollar health care reform legislation, a local TEA Party leader charged Tuesday in a letter urging state Attorney General Bill Mims to conduct a formal investigation.
This press release is unfortunate, implicating Perriello in some anti-tea party conspiracy. Let me repeat: Perriello and his staff were not involved. In fact, Perriello learned about the incident the next morning.

Clearing up any remaining confusion to the incident the Danville Register & Bee contacted the police and event attenders. As the newspaper reports, and I stated yesterday, Buddy Mayhew had discussions with the police beforehand concerning any protests on his property:
Organizers held the event on private property, which allowed the property owner to decide whether law enforcement could remove people.

Buddy Mayhew, who owns the farm where the community forum was held, said he hadn’t heard about the incident until afterward.

Mayhew talked to sheriff’s deputies before the community forum began Saturday about whether they should ask anyone to leave his property. He said that if protesters were there and behaving, then they could stay.

“But if something occurs that is of a disruptive nature, that has no place to be there, you have my permis-sion to ask them to leave,” Mayhew said he told the deputies. (emphasis mine)
And, the police reported how they responded during the event:
Sgt. M.C. Davis of the Virginia State Police said that the security detail with the secretaries of energy and agriculture brought the local authorities’ attention to a group of people, which included Bobbie Conner and Nigel Coleman, during the community forum. Coleman is the chairman of the Danville Tea Party Committee, and Conner is its vice chairman.

“Obviously, you look into these things when people act differently than the rest of the crowd,” Davis said.

Conner and Coleman were standing beside a block of seats, about six rows back. The group talked audibly to each other during the forum and looked upset at times with the secretaries’ answers and some questions. They left just before the question-and-answer session ended.

Sheriff’s deputies approached them after seeing the group pull protest signs out of their car, said Capt. Donald Motley of the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office.

“When they were approached by law enforcement, the event itself was over,” Motley said. “They told them that if they were going to put those up, they would have to leave.” (emphasis mine)
So, the Secretaries' security details initiated contact with the local police to keep an eye on the tea party protesters, because of their loud and agitated behavior. Only when they decided to display signs and protest were they asked to leave. Like Coleman claimed, however without the malicious intent, the police followed up on Monday:
The state police followed up on the incident Monday when a trooper visited Conner’s house.

“They were questioned about their actions during the meeting,” Davis said. “We were trying to inquire that they were asking a question and didn’t know how to go about it.”

The trooper got the information he needed, and the investigation ended.

“As far as I know, it was over with,” Davis said. “They were satisfied with the answer they received.” (emphasis mine)
Again, I am sure that the presence of the police is a distressing affair - especially when their presence is seemingly unexpected and unwarranted - but when confronted by the police, one should be careful not subscribe malicious intent onto one's ideological opponent. It is an illogical, though somewhat understandable, mental shortcut. One, however, should be hesitant to make these judgments public - that elected officials, cabinet secretaries, security details, police departments, event hosts, and event attenders are all mashed into some nefarious and oppressive plot. Question the incident, yes, but don't malign folks seemingly to further your ideological agenda. Perriello and his staff were not involved, and Perriello and his staff should not have been the targets of such hasty conclusions.

And to the lesser matter of a staged Q&A. Saith the Register & Bee:
The Monday police visit to Conner’s home and the request for the Tea Party members to leave on Saturday have led to other allegations from the committee that the event was staged. Organizers and those who asked questions deny that claim.
The newspaper then interviews several people who asked questions and could not find any truth to the claim of a staged event.

So after two incidents with tea party protesters and the police, two newspapers fact-checked the claims, calling those involved, and found that Rep. Perriello was not involved. While I do not expect the meme to discontinue over night, we should all relax now that the facts have emerged.

Carry on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your unbiased reporting of the truth.