Capitol Police address controversial response to Saturday’s ultrasound protest

Saturday’s protest featured the presence of both Capitol Police and Virginia State Police. Many people are criticizing both police forces for what they see as an overuse of police manpower and tactics, despite 30 arrests that were made. Captain Goodloe of the Capitol Police addresses these concerns and defends how the police responded

According to Capitol Police, approximately 1,000 people assembled outside the Capitol Building last Saturday to protest the General Assembly’s recent passage of a bill that would require a medically unnecessary ultrasound for women seeking an abortion. The arrest of 30 protestors and the presence of the Tactical Field Force of the Virginia State Police made many question the tactics and methods of the two police forces.

“We always plan for the worst-case scenario,” said Capt. Raymond Goodloe, in an phone interview with RVANews. “Our actions are indicated by what [protestors] do.”

Capt. Goodloe said that organizers of the protest had obtained two permits to assemble at Bell Tower, an often-used protest location near the state’s legislative and executive center at Capitol Square. The times were for 11am – 12pm, and for 2pm – 3pm. Between 1pm – 1:30 pm, protestors assembled outside the Capitol building, an act that is not permitted—only state-sponsored events are allowed at Capitol Square sites beyond the Bell Tower.

Capitol Police informed the crowd that their presence on the Capitol steps was illegal. Capt. Goodloe said that officers gave the protestors thirty minutes to leave. “It was an escalation based on [the protestors],” said Capt. Goodloe. “We were trying to help [the protestors] stay legal.” He said, however, individuals deliberately remained on the Capitol steps after being told their assemblage was illegal and that they would be arrested should they remain. He said that the protestors “knew the rules and intentionally violated them.”

Rumors swirled in the aftermath of arrests that Gov. McDonnell personally asked for the Virginia State Police to intervene. Capt. Goodloe said those claims are not accurate. He said that during events similar to last Saturday’s protest, Virginia State Police are kept “offsite, but close by” in the case that Capitol Police require their assistance.

When it looked as though arrests were going to be made, the Virginia State Police’s Tactical Field Force (which carry and use equipment similar to the popular notion of “riot gear”) assisted Capitol Police officers when the crowd proved unresponsive. “The police are always outnumbered,” said Capt. Goodloe, who said that Capitol Police used the Tactical Field Force of the State Police to insure the safety of officers and protestors should violence have occurred. “It was a tense time,” he said, and that in “just a second” a passionate protest can turn into a riot, which he said warranted the assistance of the Virginia State Police. Capt. Goodloe said that it was the first time in 27 years that Capitol Police used the Tactical Field Force.

The thirty protestors that were arrested were charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly, each a Class 1 misdemeanor. Capt. Goodloe maintained that several of the arrestees behaved in a manner that indicated they wanted to be taken into custody, but that there was “no violence from the protestors.” Neither police nor protestors were injured during the event.

Wayne Powell, who plans to oppose Eric Cantor for the 7th U.S. Congressional seat, said he would provide pro bono legal services to those arrested.

Another protest is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) beginning at 10:30am at 1500 E. Main Street.

photos courtesy of Patience Salgado

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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