Continued arrests of protesters “opens a wound” in Lynchburg community

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Lynchburg police made some arrests more than a week after the protests and vandalism in the area of Fifth & Federal in Lynchburg on May 31.

The public defender’s office says these arrests happened after police identified people in videos posted to social media.

They had their bond hearings on Wednesday, June 17.

“I know at this point, the community is frustrated,” said Mirgina Sheffey, a community organizer, “and what they hope to see is a change in the police system as a whole.”

Sheffey is the founder of Lynchburg RISE, or “Reaching Inclusivity and Systemic Equality,” a community group drafting a list of demands for local law enforcement.

“The community wants police to stop arresting protesters, stop harassing protesters.”

Their concern was highlighted in two bond hearings on Wednesday. Leonard Becker and Tyler Dolsey were arrested more than a week after the Fifth & Federal protest.

“I find that deeply troubling,” said Public Defender Aaron Boone. “I feel like to review footage from social media from any other video source, and then to go back days later, I think in Mr. Becker’s particular case, it was eight days later and charge people opens a wound in the community that has been healing.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison says the charges are necessary to curtail criminal activity and protect the public.

“Law enforcement and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has to prosecute crime,” said Boone, “but at the same time, they have an enormous amount of discretion as to whether or not to charge, and I wish it was exercised in a better way.”

Both Dolsey and Becker were granted a $5,000 bond. Part of Becker’s bond agreement says he’s not allowed to participate in any protests.

Boone says it’s a “troubling” restriction of First Amendment rights.

Harrison compares it to restricting someone’s use of a firearm if they’re charged with using a gun to commit a crime.

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