Where Should Perriello Relocate for Protesters’ Convenience?

The Rutherford Institute thinks that Rep. Tom Perriello should move his office to a more protestable location, Brian McNeill writes in today’s Progress.. As Lisa Provence explains in The Hook’s cover story this week, angry protesters are intimidating patrons of neighboring businesses, insisting that they have every right to protest on private property, and complaining that the sidewalk next to the building isn’t close enough for their liking. (Let’s all pause to consider the irony of property rights advocate insisting that they have a right to protest on private property.) Rutherford president John Whitehead says that when the congressman’s lease expires on the space in a year, he should move to a location that is friendlier to protestors. Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression president Bob O’Neil thinks that it’s possible that it would be a good thing for Perriello to do that, but has to wonder what location this could possibly be.

So, let’s figure this out. Who can think of a privately-owned building that leases a space appropriate for a congressman’s regional district office, that’s surrounded by public land, located in a more popular and well-trafficked part of the city than this one (two blocks off the Downtown Mall), but has no neighboring offices, businesses, or residences, and has rent that’s low enough that anti-government protestors won’t complain about it? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

42 thoughts on “Where Should Perriello Relocate for Protesters’ Convenience?”

  1. There are so many things about this story that irritate me. Part of the issue is that, for the first time I’ve *ever* heard of, it is being asserted that the convenience of protesters is the *primary* criteria to be consulted when locating an office. I’m not aware of the other situations in which a business or a politician or a nonprofit or anything has been expected to cater to the comfort preferences (because this is not really an issue of accessibility — see below) of potential protesters.

    It’s not as if Perriello’s office is inaccessible — it’s simply not as convenient and comfy as some protesters would like. (In fact, it has four dedicated parking spaces for visitors, arguably making it more accessible than Goode’s office on the Mall.)

    Also, it seems to be an issue of numbers: if there were one or two protesters, there wouldn’t be a problem.

    So let’s be clear that this is not an issue of “it is extremely difficult for me to pay a visit to my congressperson,” but “it is extremely difficult for me and 100 of my closest bused-in friends to stand around all day long shouting slogans, we’re kind of all squished in together, and we’d really like something more comfy for us.” I’m not sure how your right to free expression is infringed if what’s inhibited is your ability to gather in very large numbers and be very loud all day long.

    It’s also irritating, needless to say, that aside from Whitehead, none (that’s just an estimate) of these protesters gave a damn about rights to free expression when it came to war protesters or protesters outside the Republican National Convention. If I’m wrong, I’d like to see the bona fides of the anti-Perriello haranguers on the free-speech front.

    And can I finally say that these people aren’t interested in political protest so much as harassment? They want to be able to be loud outside of Perriello’s office. They want to be able to chant, loudly, their anti-Perriello songs and slogans. To irritate and harass him. If they wanted to make a public protest, by contrast, they’d go marching on the Mall, or leaflet, or go where the people are. Plus, given the remarkable accessibility of Congressman Perriello (multiple townhalls, going out to talk to the people in the parking lot, etc.), it just rings so false to say “help help, I’m being oppressed.”

  2. What I find especially baffling is protesters’ interest in protesting at Perriello’s office. If their goal is to change Perriello’s mind, they have failed utterly. (Imagine somebody trying to convince you to agree with them on, say, the death penalty by calling you a terrorist.) But if their goal is to try to change voters minds, why do they want to set up a Perriello’s office? Folks protesting the war every Thursday afternoon do so on the corner of Ridge/McIntire and Main. There’s no war there. There are no generals, no elected officials, no congressional offices. But there is a great deal of traffic. They go where the people are. It’s more effective.

    Protesters have every right to stand on public land in front of the congressman’s office and protest. But it’s dumb. They should try the corner of Ridge/McIntire and Main. But probably not on Thursdays.

  3. It’s only baffling if you take them at their word, that they are “protesters.” They are harassers. They want to create a hostile environment for a man they hate. They’re not unlike the kind of abortion clinic “protester” who simply wants to scream at women entering the clinic. That’s not political protest, in my view.

  4. What if the new office only had parking in a garage? The congressman’s office could validate for non-protesters only.

  5. The Hook covered this issue very well, especially Mr. Szakos’s perspectve on it.
    These people don’t want a debate on the issues, they just want to browbeat and attempt to intinidate Mr. Perriello.
    I do hope voters in the district will not be fooled by these rightwing cranks and return him to office next year. After the likes of being represented in Congress by the likes of Virgil Goode, he is a breath of fresh air.

  6. Yet another example of the right wing’s black-or-white, you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us extremism. There’s no interest in thoughtful debate, or coming together to find a compromise – the only objective is to yell louder than your opposition.

  7. I agree with the commentors who say it’s not protesting- it’s mean spirited harassment.

    Taking a page from their playbook – show me where in the constitution of the united states does it say that congressmen shall have offices that are convenient for protesters?

    If I were Perriello I would keep my offices where they are, simply because the protesters have made in an issue. And if I were to move- I would choose something even more inconvenient for them.

    If they were seriously protesting against an issue they should go somewhere with more traffic (like as has been mentioned Ridge Street and W. Main).

  8. Though I’m increasingly convinced by the argument that the purpose of this is harassment, not protesting, I don’t see the slightest difference in legal application. In either case, for this purpose, both are protected expression (on public land, of course.) For the same reason, I’m increasing convinced that the complaints by protesters are also bullshit—that there’s not an actual problem here, but simply an attempt to make an issue where none exists. The reason for that is this bit from Lisa Provence’s article:

    The Free Speech monument is “not as effective because it’s not in front of his office,” says Hay, also noting that more than 50 people assembling requires a permit. A better solution, Hay suggests, would be for Perriello to move his office to a stand-alone building, such as in Albemarle Square, although that’s private property as well.

    “There’s no perfect place for him,” quips Hay, “except out of the 5th District.”

    That’s the head of the Jefferson Area Tea Party confessing that no matter where Congressman Perriello locates his office, they intend to complain that it’s a violation of their First Amendment rights. That is, for me, a pretty strong cue that there is no story here, and that continuing to report on this is simply enabling a campaign of bullshit from these angry old men. That’s not to say that I can’t be convinced otherwise, but right now, the bulk of the evidence points to “sham.”

  9. Perriello should be able to have his office wherever he wants. Come November he is gone. The voters will close his offices permanently.

  10. Casting a glance sideways and backwards at the invariably baffling “political” activities and “protests” associated with the Arby’s franchise at Forest Lakes should be instructive here. Not only are many of the players the same, but the objectives seem to jibe as well:

    “I think things like this at the local level is where we’re going to make a name for ourselves” according to James Curtis, member Jefferson Area Libertarians, October 2003 in response to Albemarle County’s order that the owner of the Forest Lakes Arby’s remove an Arby’s flag from his flag pole as well as other window advertisements that were in violation of County ordinances (from Cavalier Daily, “Slonaker’s Libertarian Beef,” February 26, 2003).

    The “demand” that Perriello move his office is nothing more than an attempt by a small gang of cranks with increasingly loud voices (thanks in no small part to their ability to communicate visibly and rapidly over the internet and, when their resources are insufficient, to call upon their well-funded, well-networked corporate allies – you know, the “grassroots” movements with their fulltime staffs, tour buses, and mysterious sponsors)to grab the limelight and get a bit of attention. After years in the wilderness when even their closest political brethren – the RNC – seemed to want little to do with them, they now see a crack in the wall and are scrambling to make the most of it. Problem is, whatever reasonable and rational political agenda they might hold deep somewhere is lost by their incessant and insistent angry, hateful clamor that, they seem to have learned, is the only thing they have that will hold them in the spotlight and, I guess they hope, help pull people into their ranks. They want nothing more than to be an angry, seething mob. The willful mistruths, distortions, and outright lies promulgated daily by this mob is legion and yet they still remain unrepentent. The idea that these folks are somehow “patriots” on a mission to save the very soul of America, a soul which they and they alone grasp, would be laughable if it weren’t so potentially dangerous.

    Chaps Ice Cream Parlor and Java Hut – please know that you will never, ever again enjoy my business. And with a bit of our own grassroots (non)support, come November you too will be out of here.

    Quietly yours,


  11. If Tom has to move his office, any increase in rent ought to be paid for by Whitehead, since it is his idea, and once in a while he ought to put his money where his mouth is.

  12. Waldo, that same quote from the Hook article also stuck out in my mind — the guy’s not even pretending to have valid complaints. That’s the point in interview where he lets all pretense drop and basically just says “we’re just here because we like whining.”

  13. ah…thanks, Wallace. good to know. I’ve always preferred Splendora to Chaps, but now I’ll make a conscious effort to avoid Chaps.

  14. Casting a glance sideways and backwards at the invariably baffling “political” activities and “protests” associated with the Arby’s franchise at Forest Lakes should be instructive here. Not only are many of the players the same, but the objectives seem to jibe as well:

    I don’t believe that “Wallace” actually took the time to compare online pictures.

  15. A better solution, Hay suggests, would be for Perriello to move his office to a stand-alone building, such as in Albemarle Square, although that’s private property as well.

    Yeah! Move out to Albemarle Square and then we can make the protesters stand all the way out on 29N or Rio Road because the rest is private property!

  16. It really irks me that these “protesters” are agitating for their own comfort and convenience when they show such blatant disregard for the comfort and convenience of people who patronize or work in the businesses in the Glass Building.

  17. Like the protesters in front of the Fed Courthouse that were blocking the roads and refusing to allow traffic to move so their voices could be heard while requesting an endless stream of horn honking in front of residential space?

    That kind of blatant disregard for others?

    Because you can bet those same people would be on the horn to the police the second that someone else sat in front of their driveway, honking incessantly and refusing to allow them to drive to work.

    That kind of “irksome” behavior? Or is it just the left that is allowed to want to have their cake and eat it too?

    Or perhaps too many people take themselves to seriously and instead of proactively supporting their candidates they have to bash on the others…?

  18. I hope someone can tell me that Perriello is NOT considering this.

    After all my time here, I believe this is in the top 5 of the most ridiculous stories I’ve ever read.

    I mean WTF???

  19. Danp(r)i, unless you know that people on this thread were avidly cheering on any left-spectrum protesters who did the things you described above, you’re preaching to the choir. All the protests I’ve participated in have taken pains not to inconvenience people trying to get to work, do their jobs, etc. That’s not to say that there aren’t protesters who don’t care about other people’s needs.

    So your post comes across pretty much like “lookie, lookie, people on the left did it too!” so, yeah, thanks, but everyone knew that already. and so now what?

  20. Where do the teabaggers have their office? And Rutherford? Oh, a P.O. Box. I demand Rutherford sign up for a publicly accessible mailbox!

    “GOP Buries Grassroots”. The Jefferson Area Tea Party blog is upset the Republicans chose a primary over a nominating convention for the 5th District race next year! Just as cynical as this office kerfuffle: their guy can’t win a primary apparently. The only two arguments they make though is that primaries are expensive and the June 7 date locks candidate out from switching to a third party. But local primaries have always been in June to my recall, except for presidential ones. And how can they make up their minds to take over the party if they also want to run against it?

  21. Maybe the Rutherford Institute ought to fight for more places where the kind of public protest they want to allow can actually happen. But wait … that contradicts their other goal of supporting private property interests. Dang. You can’t win.

  22. Setting aside whether or not they are just hassling Perriello or genuinely trying to persuade him, there is nothing quite so delicious as watching these right-wing “Libertarians” choke on their own private property dogma.

  23. Argh. Exhibit A of why liberal talking heads are as bad as conservative talking heads. Olbermann conflates John Whitehead with the teabaggers (Whitehead also defended Democrat Rich Collins in a very similar matter a few years ago), and then digs up a truly unflattering photo of Whitehead to make him look foolish. There are enough photos of these guys with teabags hanging off of their ears, carrying posters of Obama as Hitler, that there’s no need to go photoshopping anybody to look worse. And Whitehead doesn’t appear to have anything to do with these people’s goofy political positions—he’s simply involved on a constitutional legal level.

    I’ve got no patience for these blow-hard talking heads.

  24. Dan wrote, “Maybe the Rutherford Institute ought to fight for more places where the kind of public protest they want to allow can actually happen. But wait … that contradicts their other goal of supporting private property interests. Dang. You can’t win.”

    I agree that our national fetishization of property rights has led to the situation where the right of the public to gather/protest is rendered essentially moot, since there is no more public space, but I would ask: is the Rutherford Institute’s “other goal” that of supporting private property rights? I don’t know Whitehead’s career inside and out, but I thought he was squarely into speech, religion, fourth amendment rights, rights of kids to wear what they want in schools…and the Institute is anti-death penalty, I believe. Their site also refers to the Patriot Act as Orwellian.

    I don’t think he’s done anything with private property rights per se.

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that Whitehead himself is on the right in any simplistic or populist way.

  25. Waldo: I reject your title premise. The question shouldn’t be “Where should Perriello Relocate for Protesters’ Convenience”. It should be “SHOULD Perriello Relocate for Protesters’ Convenience”.

    This is how Republicans/Conservatives have redefined the conversation. We need to reject their skewed definitions and insist that real questions be answered rather than their faux ones.

  26. Cecil – John Whitehead is a pretty much straight up classical libertarian, so defense of property rights is right up his alley. That said, in this case, he’s caught on the same skewer – hard to defend the right to do whatever you like in the privacy of your own private property (ie, beyond the reach of compelling public interest) – and at the same time complain about lack of public access.

    Waldo is right about him not being a simple teabagger; I’m not personally always in agreement with his choice of causes/cases, but he is not a partisan hack (teabaggers), intellectually dishonest (teabaggers) nor grossly hypocritical. Like I said: he’s usually better than this. The Collins case and this case seem a little different; it would be somewhat harder to establish economic injury to Dart Shopper’s World than it is in this case, though I’m not sure that’s what it really hinges on.

  27. Yeah, I know he’s a libertarian, but I’m saying that th Rutherford Institute doesn’t seem to pursue a lot of property rights cases. His life’s work seems to lie in other areas.

  28. The 5th district office was previously located just off the downtown mall with a direct entrance onto the public sidewalk and side-street. I recall anti-Goode protesters occupying the office at least one day until it closed. I’m the only one that remembers this?

  29. I’m not sure that I get your point, Don’t Tread. Is it that the Goode office was less accessible, because their was no free, convenient parking? I do remember the protesters occupying that office. Didn’t they get arrested? Are you suggesting that the teabaggers ought to be arrested?

  30. Don’t Tread, don’t you think the tour bus full of teabaggers would go bonkers with complaints if Perriello was located on the Mall? Their tour buses would have to park…where? in one of the pay lots? wouldn’t they complain that that was unconstitutional, having to pay for parking? and then they’d have to WALK to the office? that sounds like a hardship that infringes on their right to free speech.

  31. Can you imagine the whining if the teabaggers were to be arrested?

    Please, oh please, oh please, can we find out?

  32. James-
    I think you’re perhaps overlooking a rather obvious amount of sarcasm in Oniss’s original post?

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