Women allegedly threatened with arrest

Published 11:05 am Thursday, November 10, 2016

The pastor of two Baptist churches near a proposed natural gas fired 53,515 horsepower compressor station — part of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project — is decrying the alleged threat of arrest of seven women who attended a recent jobs announcement in Buckingham by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“On Thursday, October 27 … seven faithful, spiritual women were told they would be arrested if they didn’t leave an event you were headlining in Buckingham County,” Pastor Paul Wilson, who preaches at Union Grove and Union Hill Baptist churches, said in an open letter to McAuliffe.

Chad Oba

Chad Oba

Virginia State Police (VSP) spokeswoman Corinne Geller said “at the property owner’s request, a state police sergeant simply directed those not on the event roster to stage at the entrance to the property.”

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She said the event took place on private property, by invitation only. Geller said McAuliffe’s security detail never had any contact with anyone but the governor and his staff at the event.

McAuliffe has openly supported the pipeline. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

Wilson said he personally knows the seven women, with three of them being members of his congregation. He noted he was unable to attend the event, but completed his own investigation and is “very disturbed” with his findings.

“As we have always tried to be respectful and develop good relations with our county officials, I think you can understand our distress with that miscommunication — seemingly, through no fault of our own,” Kenda Hanuman, a member of Friends of Buckingham (FOB), a group opposed to the ACP, told Sheriff William G. “Billy” Kidd Jr. in an email.

Hanuman said she was among the women asked to leave.

“This is so disturbing, to experience this sort of prejudice and alienation in our county at the hands of law enforcement. When the man who identified himself as the manager spoke to Chad (Oba) and me, I assured him that I respected his wishes and had no intention of causing a disturbance,” she said. “He seemed fine with that. Shortly afterwards, we were approached by officers who were fairly rude and said we must leave.”

Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter said she believes concerns arose when the Friends of Buckingham posted on Facebook the evening before the event.

“(It was) urging the pipeline protesters to come to this event to let our governor know that he can and needs to respond to their concerns regarding the ACP and … the compressor station, stating that one way to do this would be to show up for the event,” she said.

Carter said the property owner said he did not want anyone protesting on his property.

“These people showed up pretty much as a group and did have the signs in their vehicles. It was the property owner who asked that those people leave the property,” she said.

In his letter, Wilson noted Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Basil Gooden is from Buckingham County and a member of Union Grove Baptist Church. He said many church members attended to support Gooden.

“(They) had no invitation to the event and were not told to leave,” Wilson claimed.

Carter noted the governor’s announcement had nothing to do with the pipeline, compressor station or ACP.

“This was a planned event by the governor’s office; invitations were sent out,” she said. “Yes, some did come who may not have received an invitation, but it is my understanding they may have received a verbal invitation from a board member or other state representatives.”

Wilson said, however, the women went through a security checkpoint and were allowed to enter the venue.

“Once made aware of their presence, the owner of the facility told them they could stay in front of Virginia State Police (VSP) officers working as security for you at the facility,” Wilson wrote in his letter. “As the owner walked away, he huddled with your VSP security detail. After a 30-second conversation, one of your officers approached these ladies, told them the owner now said they were trespassing and must leave immediately or be arrested.”

Wilson told McAuliffe, “Long after you leave the Governor’s Mansion, we will still have to endure the effects of the pollution being spewed from this compressor station if it is built. These faithful, spiritual women deserve an apology from you, Gov. McAuliffe.They did not deserve the treatment they received at the hands of your security detail.”