June 21, 2010
Members of the local tea party say they believe they've gotten unfair treatment outside U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello's office.
Party members say it's unfair they need to protest on the sidewalk outside the Glass Building, where Perriello has his constituent services office. The sidewalk is across a parking lot from where the actual office is.
But what's more concerning to them is that they say the landlord is picking and choosing who can be there.
Tea party members gathered on the closest public property to Perriello's office, which was the sidewalk on Garrett Street in Charlottesville. In the past, they've disputed the health care bill. On Monday, they disputed the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as said in the First Amendment.
"We're supposed to be able to redress our congressman, and by the nature of how the lease is set up here, we're not able to do that," tea party member Steven Peters said.
Through a series of protests at the Glass Building, protesters have learned they cannot gather on private property owned by Lisa Murphy. The tea party claims Murphy is a big supporter of Perriello and has not called the police on liberal protesters.
"It seems that there is a history, that whenever a conservative group is down here protesting, law enforcement is called. Whenever a liberal group has been down here, law enforcement has not been called," tea party chairwoman Carole Thorpe said.
Tea party members said they want to see Perriello move his office to public property, but if he doesn't, they want equal access and equal treatment.
Joan Fenton, a friend of Murphy's, spoke on the landlord's behalf at the protest to dispute claims that her friend discriminates against conservatives.
"That's inaccurate. The only protest that we are aware of was a two-and-a-half minute protest which nobody observed other than the tea party," Fenton said. "And had they known, the police would have been called, and that group that did that has been notified. Should they do it again, they will also be told to leave or be arrested."
Murphy's attorney wrote a letter to John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute. Whitehead has been urging Perriello to move the location of his office.
The attorney said in his letter that no one has been given permission to protest in the Glass Building parking lot, regardless of which side of the political spectrum he or she may be on. He said this has been her stance the entire time.
Perriello is up for re-election this November. Thorpe said she's going to ask all three candidates to make a pledge that they will put their offices on public property if they are elected.