Activist Who Staged Protest With Breast Exposed Gets Out of Jail

In one of those interesting juxtapositions that the news cycle sometimes provides, in the same week that Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone was allowed to walk free after apparently threatening a federal judge with violence, an pro-Equal Rights Amendment activist in Virginia was ordered to jail for a month after she exposed one breast outside the state capitol.

Stone is charged with lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering in connection with his alleged role as an intermediary in the release of emails by Russian hackers through Wikileaks to influence the 2016 presidential election. He was allowed to remain free without posting bail on those charges. And after he posted a photo on Instagram accusing the judge in his case of running a “show trial” and depicting her with a rifle-sight crosshairs next to her head, he was allowed to remain free once again.

But when Michelle Sutherland on Monday staged a live re-creation of the Virginia state flag (pictured above) which depicts the female warrior Virtus with one breast exposed, she was arrested on an “indecent exposure” charge—and a judge order her jailed until her March 21 court appearance.

The charge against Sutherland is a nonviolent misdemeanor, which rarely results in suspects being jailed before trial.

But on Thursday, the judge—Lawrence B. Cann III of Richmond—changed his mind after a widespread public outcry. He apologized for the decision to jail Sutherland for a month, setting her free and claiming that he was unaware of the context behind Sutherland’s arrest—though what “context” would have required jailing Sutherland for a month was not made clear.

See an image of the protest by Sutherland and collaborator Natalie White, who portrayed “Tyranny” in the protest, at this link

“We were here reenacting the state flag and the state seal of Virginia, which says that we shall not give in to tyrants, and Speaker [Kirk] Cox and [House Majority Leader Todd] Gilbert are both tyrants who are stopping the Equal Rights Amendment from getting to the floor for a vote,” White said in a WWBT TV interview.

A legal expert, Scott Goodman, told WWBT charges of “indecent exposure” generally are required to exhibit a sexualized intent—which was not the case in Sutherland’s flag recreation protest.

"I can't see any judge in the Commonwealth finding these women guilty of this charge," he said.

Photo By Charles Keck / Wikimedia Commons Public Domain