Mr. Powell said, “While I certainly believe that any and all demonstrations should be peaceful, lawful, and not put participants or passersby in any danger, I believe that having state police show up in riot gear and with canisters of tear gas to face women and men who are demonstrating ‘loudly with silence,’ is an overreaction and a provocation to violence.”
“These individuals who showed up to protest were exercising their constitutional right to assembly and free speech. They were not threatening anyone, they were not destroying property, they were not hindering anyone else’s activities. While I certainly would have preferred that they had not chosen to ‘occupy’ the Capitol steps, at the same time, I question why the police thought Virginians on the steps of their own Capitol was so dangerous.
“To have them forcibly remove these people and risk injury to them seems to me a serious overreaction and an incitement to further violence. I would ask the governor to treat protesters with the same respect and courtesy he gives those numerous individuals who enter the General Assembly Building every day armed with guns and ammunition. In these times after Congressman Gabby Giffords’ shooting, I think we should be significantly more concerned about armed individuals in an office building than peaceably assembled demonstrators outside on public property.”