I got to Roanoke City Market this lunchtime a few minutes after all the excitement about the performance art bust and wasn't really aware of it until I ran into a cluster of excited people reviewing what had just happened and not really believing it.
First, I passed three people I know having an ice cream at a little parlor with outside seats and they were excited about the "demonstration" that had just taken place, a bunch of people sitting on the sidewalk watching blank TV screens "to demonstrate the value of the arts, I think," said Kathy Chittum (she runs the Grandin Theatre). She was pretty close to right (and was actually one of the actors). This was a performance art presentation, mostly in fun, but putting a little art in the public square. All harmless stuff. Kathy and her lunch mates were smiling.
Moving along, I noted some agitation and then I heard that somebody had been arrested, "a girl who was pulled up, thrown around and taken away," somebody said. I found out later that the young woman had tried to continue her performance even as a loutish, loud-mouthed cop was bullying her and insisting she move off the sidewalk where she was "disruptive." From the tape of the event I saw later on Facebook, he was the one being disruptive and he was about twice her size, so he was also the one blocking the sidewalk.
There was a lot of screaming and yelling--all by the cops from what I could determine with the Facebook tape--and, ultimately, a lot of jaws on the ground when the young woman was hauled away to jail.
I am, frankly, astonished, appalled, pissed off and disappointed at these publicly-paid bullies who know no restraint and obviously don't have good sense. This must be laid at the feet of Police Chief Joe Gaskins, a guy I've never much liked. The cops were totally undisciplined, used bad judgment, and made a truly outrageous and stupid decision to arrest the youngster.
At a time when Roanoke is pushing hard to attract young people, trying to appear sophisticated and artistic, this type of stunt by a boneheaded, arrogant cop can really stink up the pot and it has.