RICHMOND – It was a picnic with a political twist.
Several dozen people, mostly women and children, converged on the state Capitol grounds at lunchtime today to celebrate women’s rights and protest what they called an over-reaction by police to an abortion-rights demonstration last weekend.
At the weekend event, where hundreds of people protested newly passed legislation requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, 30 people were arrested by police in riot gear when they refused to leave the Capitol steps.
Today’s event was far more low-key.
Organizers said its purpose was for mothers to teach their children about women’s rights, civil disobedience and democracy.
The group did not get a protest permit after being assured by Capitol Police that anyone is free to picnic on the Capitol grounds.
On an unseasonably warm, sunny day, the women spread blankets on and around the Capitol steps and munched sandwiches while children cavorted on the grass. There were no protest signs.
Meghan McSweeney of Richmond said she brought her children to the event “to teach them that we’re citizens and have a right to be here.” She called the police response to last weekend’s protest “ridiculous.”
A handful of Capitol Police officers watched the picnickers from a short distance away.
-Bill Sizemore, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot