Cops, Courts & Prisons


Staff report for The Virginia Defender

Originally published July 22, 2020 to the Virginia Defender Facebook page.

RICHMOND, VA, July 22 — Braving a blazing sun and above-90-degree temperatures, more than 80 people turned out today at the John Marshall Courts Building in downtown Richmond to call for amnesty for the nearly 300 protesters facing charges as a result of the city’s ongoing rebellion against racism and to condemn the doxing and harassment of protesters and organizers.

What was billed as a Unity Press Conference had been called less than a day before by the all-volunteer activist groups Justice and Reformation for Marcus-David Peters and the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality.

Chaired by Ana Edwards of the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, the event’s speakers included two protesters facing some of the most serious charges, a community activist who described acts of severe doxing and representatives of five supporting organizations.

Watching the hour-long press conference were more than a dozen sheriff’s deputies who stood in the shade under the courthouse awning after telling those present they would have to gather in the open courtyard.

The protesters speaking today were:

Michaela Hatton, a recent graduate of the VCU School of Social Work, charged with felony assault on a law enforcement officer and conspiracy to incite a riot during a June 14 demonstration outside the Richmond Police Department’s headquarters.

Omari Al-Qadaffi, a housing organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center, charged with trespassing, obstruction and two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer during a July 1 protest of the resumption of evictions in Richmond.

Breanne Armbrust, a longtime community activist who said she has been the target of “extremely personal attacks and surveillance. … This includes doxing – the sharing of my personal information online – attacks on my employment, attacks on my family.”

Representing the supporting organizations were Princess Blanding of Justice and Reformation for Marcus-David Peters; Joseph Rogers of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality; Yohance Whitaker of the Legal Aid Justice Center; and Luca Connorlly from the Richmond Community Bail Fund. A Statement from the RVA Legal Collaborative of attorneys defending charged protesters was read by the chair.

At the end of the event, Edwards asked anyone in the crowd representing an organization to say its name. Those named included Community Unity in Action, Democratic Socialists of America, JusticeRVA, Marijuana Justice, Odessa Solidarity Campaign, RaceCapitol, Richmond for All and the Uhuru Solidarity Movement.

Media attending the press conference included the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Style Weekly, Channel 12 television (NBC), Martin Images News, award-winning photojournalist Brian Palmer and The Virginia Defender newspaper. The event was livestreamed on the Defenders’ new Instagram account.

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