RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Protests in Richmond can get loud, but rarely physical.
A Tuesday counter-protest downtown left one man, a longtime conservative legal worker in the U.S. Senate, charged with simple assault.
Both the accused, 74-year-old James E. Hinish of Williamsburg, and the alleged victim, Kathy Carle, agree that he snatched her protest sign out her hands.
But they disagree on what happened in the moments prior.
The sign read: “GOP It’s 2012 NOT 1912.”
Carle, a democratic supporter, was among a large group of protestors who gathered at the James Center to counter a rally held by conservative groups decrying the claim by Democrats that the GOP is engaged in a war on women.
She said a man approached her and “had some really rather bizarre, kind of off-the-wall comments he was making about Medicare and just wouldn’t go away. So I kind of brushed him off and said, ‘You need to do your homework.’ And that really enraged him. He got up in my face, got his finger out. I thought he was going to hit me, but instead, he grabbed the sign and ripped it out of my hands.”
Other counter protestors witnessed the confrontation. A longtime Richmond police officer was close by and intervened.
Hinish, according to his Facebook site and comments to CBS 6, is a 1960 graduate of Yale University, formerly a longtime lawyer for Republicans in the U.S. Senate and a former government professor for Regent University. He is an active campaigner and speaker for conservative causes. Some of his speeches and political thoughts can be found online.
So, he said, he’s well-versed in the rights to assemble, to protest, to hold a sign.
“And I wasn’t protesting what her position was or the fact that she was there or anything else,” Hinish said. “It’s just she waved the thing in front of my bloody face and I was just going by and so I grabbed it. She was trying to . . . she was on the other side, and so she was trying to be nasty, that’s all.”
Carle said she didn’t wave her sign at Hinish. It was her words that enraged him, she said. “I didn’t want to listen to his rants, you know, he’s welcome to say that but I wanted to listen to what the speakers had to say. I guess he just didn’t want to be dismissed that easily.”
Does Hinish believe in the right for protestors to gather?
“Absolutely,” he said.
Does he believe in the right for protestors to carry signs?
Did he feel a little queasy about grabbing the protest sign?
“No! Not when she waved . . . my face with it.” He says he has a witness who will testify that what he’s saying is correct.
The counter protestors have their own witnesses.
Hinish was charged with simple assault and was released on his signature. He’s due in court next month.