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Protesters Show Up, but Governor Doesn’t

March 6, 2012

By Zack Budryk
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Undeterred by a surprise early vote from Gov. Bob McDonnell, about 30 reproductive rights activists gathered in front of Precinct 607 this morning to protest the governor’s support of anti-abortion legislation.

The protest was scheduled to coincide with McDonnell’s vote in Virginia’s Republican presidential primary. According to McDonnell’s official calendar, the vote was scheduled for 11:15 a.m. However, upon assembling, demonstrators were told that the governor had already voted – at 9:30 a.m.

Despite McDonnell’s absence, the demonstrators elected to stay assembled outside the precinct.

“It is not our intention to interfere with or intimidate anyone’s right to vote, especially the governor,” protester Glen Besa, director of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement to the press. “We are here to demonstrate against the efforts by Gov. McDonnell and the General Assembly to violate the rights of women to exercise their reproductive rights.”

Protesters wore red armbands in solidarity with women affected by the proposed laws, and in some cases held signs.

McDonnell attracted national controversy over his initial support of a bill to require any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a mandatory transvaginal sonogram first. Soon after the bill passed the House of Delegates, more than 1,000 opponents held a silent protest on the Capitol grounds.

Subsequently, McDonnell called for the bill to be amended. A new version, which makes the ultrasound abdominal rather than transvaginal, has passed the General Assembly and now awaits McDonnell’s signature.

A demonstration against the amended bill on Saturday resulted in about 30 arrests after protesters sat on the steps of the Capitol and disregarded an order to move. Several of those arrested Saturday turned out for this morning’s demonstration as well.

Supporters of the demonstrators have condemned the police response as excessive. McDonnell’s office responded to the controversy by telling CBS 6 that the governor “does not direct security policy.”

Demonstrator Goad Gatsby said he found this explanation implausible.

“He is the governor, and as far as I know, the governor is always in charge of the police,” Gatsby said. “[The governor’s office] said ‘Oh, he was at the CAA tournament, he couldn’t possibly be involved in that,’ as if they didn’t know it was happening.”

Gatsby also said that McDonnell’s recent announcement to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrests did not ring true. “I want to know if it’s standard procedure that the governor’s office investigates things that they weren’t involved in,” he said.

McDonnell’s press office has not responded to requests for comment on his change of plans on when he would vote in today’s GOP primary election.

Demonstrator Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield told reporters that she was “a little bit disappointed but not surprised” by McDonnell’s change of plans.

“We want the governor and the state … to know that women are equal,” said Broaddus-Crutchfield, a native of Powhatan, “[and] that we deserve the right to make medical decisions for our bodies with our doctors, and that no one has the right to impose these [restrictions].”


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