Anti-protest bill goes down on bipartisan vote

A protest crack down bill failed on the Virginia Senate floor Monday courtesy of a bipartisan vote and a number of key Republicans who changed their minds on the bill.

Senate Bill 1055 would have increased penalties for failing to disperse when police declare an unlawful assembly, upping a misdemeanor that brings only a fine now to one with potential jail time. It was one of four bills on protest punishments filed this session by state Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Montross, and the last of the four to die.

Democrats pushed hard against the legislation, with a number of black legislators invoking the Civil Rights Movement. State Sen. Jennifer McClellan said former Hampton Del. Mamye BaCote and her fellow Virginia Union University students could have been jailed under this bill for a 1957 Richmond lunch counter sit-in.

McClellan, and others, questioned Stuart's admonition that the bill was meant to rein in riotous behavior.