Local arts-nonprofit Gallery5 opened its doors to discuss civil rights and police interactions as a part of its new series, “RVA Preservations” Nov. 16.
Lawyer and public policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia Charlie Schmidt lead a “Know Your Rights” workshop and answered questions during the event.
“I want people’s rights to be common knowledge,” Schmidt said.
There were three big facts Schmidt said he wanted the crowd to remember. The first, he said, is to always ask the police, “Why am I being stopped?”
Following that, he said the next question should be “Am I free to go?” when detained by police. Lastly, Schmidt said, citizens should never consent to searches by police.
Schmidt also spoke to the recent protests in Richmond following the 2016 presidential election. He encouraged citizens’ right to protest, but said to be mindful of lawful arrests occurring if people do not comply when police order a crowd to dissemble.
Richmond resident Ash Van Ejk said she specifically attended the workshop because she wanted to know more about her rights during protests after participating in the “Richmond Grabs Back” protest two weeks ago.
“I protested because there needs to be visible action showing that people are afraid and upset over the election,” Van Ejk said. “I came tonight because I want a clear definition of my rights so I can continue to participate and stick up for human rights.”
Attendee Sarah Greenlee said there are too many situations where she is not sure how to interact with police. Greenlee said she wants to respect police, but also ensure her rights are being respected.
Schmidt assured attendees it is within every citizen’s rights to film police interaction in Virginia and said he encourages the practices if bystanders see someone being harassed by the police.
The ACLU now has a Criminal Justice App where people can film police, and have the video file automatically sent to the ACLU.
Schmidt said this means if the police take someone’s phone they cannot delete the video and the ACLU will have the video without needing the phone.
This informational workshop was just the first of the “RVA Preservation” series Gallery5 plans on hosting.
Annie Gallo, Contributing Writer
Gareth is a cartoonist and illustrator currently in his senior year as a communication arts student. He specializes in political cartoons, humorous illustration, underground comic trivia, bird watching, hoarding, forwarding, boogie boarding and Parcheesi. Gareth currently resides inside of his inkpot. Last year, Gareth won the National Society of Professional Journalists award for Editorial Cartooning.
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