Banner calling for impeachment of Cheney confiscated and protestor detained

Richmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia announced today that it is assisting a protestor who was prevented from displaying a banner at a Fourth of July celebration sponsored by the City of Richmond.
City police confiscated the protestor’s sign, which called for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney, and detained her and her seven-year old daughter until the ceremonies were concluded. The event was held in a city-owned park open to the public.
“We are still in the early stages of our investigation,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, “but based on the information we have gathered so far, we believe the police overreacted and that they violated the free speech rights of the protestor.”
According to news accounts and to eyewitness reports given to the ACLU, Rain Burroughs and her daughter, Summer, showed up at the City of Richmond’s Fourth of July celebration at the Dogwood Dell section of Byrd Park, where she unfurled her banner. Although there are no indications that Ms. Burroughs disrupted the celebration or that she presented a threat to public safety, police arrived almost immediately, confiscated the banner, and took her and her daughter to another part of the park, where they were held until the festivities were concluded.
“It is possible that the police had the authority to move Ms. Burroughs to another place at the event if she presented a threat to public safety or was interfering with the celebration,” added Willis. “But she certainly had a First Amendment right to be at or near the event, which was held in a public park.”
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, officials from the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation later said they asked the police to remove the banner because its message was not consistent with the patriotic theme of the event.
“If it is true that city officials were motivated to act by the banner’s message, they have dug an even deeper hole for themselves,” said Willis. “Someone in the police department needs a refresher course on the Constitution.”

Contact: Kent Willis, 804/644-8022