DANVILLE, Va. – Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., may beusing the state police and local law enforcement to harass and intimidate citizens who have publicly expressed opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trillion-dollar health care reform legislation, a local TEA Party leader charged Tuesday in a letter urgingstate Attorney GeneralBill Mims to conduct a formal investigation.
Danville TEA Party chairman Nigel Coleman told Mims that Virginia State Police officers Monday came unannounced to the home of another member of the group to question him about attending a town hall meeting Saturday in Blairs which featured Perriello and two Obama cabinet secretaries.
"All Americans should be concerned when a congressman uses the state police to intimidate citizens and suppress dissent against a government takeover of our health care.," Coleman said."No American should have to fear that the police will show up at his door because he's dared publicly disagree with some politician's political agenda."
Saturday, Colemanand other TEA Party leaders were refused an opportunity to ask Perriello a question during the event, and then were instructed by a plainclothes police officer to leave the property when they attempted to display signs urging the congressman to follow the Constitution and oppose Pelosi's "socialized medicine scheme." Coleman said he and the others peacefully complied, but were followed to a restaurant by an officer in an unmarked car, who then exited his vehicle, walked over to the activists' cars, and called in their license plate numbers over the phone.
Coleman said he contacted Perriello's Danville office Monday to request a meeting with the congressman to protest the police intimidation tactics used at the event and to ask why he and other TEA Party activists were told to leave.
Perriello's staff refused the request for a meeting, Coleman said, while assuring him that the office understood that he and other local TEA Party activists pose no threat to the congressman.
"First, I was disappointed at Saturday's event that Congressman Perriello refused to take hard questions from his constituents about where he stands on Nancy Pelosi's trillion-dollar socialized medicine scheme," Coleman said. "But I am outraged by the police intimidation tactics that have only escalated since."
"Now, as of Monday, Rep. Perriello refuses to even meet with us, while the police treat constituents who are simply exercising our Constitutional free speech rights as if we're terrorists," Coleman said.
"Citizens have the right to schedule a meeting with our elected officials whose salary we pay. Rep. Perriello needs to stop refusing to meet with us to answer the tough questions, and help us stop local and state police from suppressing our First Amendment free speech rights," he said.
Coleman organized two recent TEA party rallies, one on July 4th and another on July 17th at Perriello's Danville office to protest the upcoming socialized healthcare bill.
Coleman noted that at a similar TEA Party protest outside Perriello's Charlottesville office Friday, police appeared to order an estimated 60 local taxpayers to leave the parking lot. As reported Friday on the blog of The Schilling Show, a Charlottesville talk radio program:
"Approximately forty minutes into the event, Charlottesville police were called to the parking lot area. Unconfirmed reports from the scene tie at least one of the complaining phone calls directly to Congressman Tom Perriello's office staff. While the attending police officers (professionally and politely) compelled the gathered crowd to disperse, rally attendees grumbled at the prospect of their own congressman's office terminating their First Amendment free speech protest."
Letter from Nigel Coleman to Attorney General of Virginia, July 22, 2009.