Michaela Hatton is the young African-American woman arrested in the early morning hours of June 15 during a Black Lives Matter protest outside the Richmond Police Department headquarters on West Grace Street.

She has been charged with two felonies: inciting to riot and assault on a law enforcement officer. Together, the charges carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

The police are saying Michaela hit an officer with a bullhorn. Eyewitnesses have contradicted that claim, and further have charged that the police pepper sprayed the loud but peaceful protesters without provocation. After Michaela was arrested, police said they would not process her for release until all the protesters had left the area, in effect holding her hostage in exchange for ending a legal demonstration.

Michaela is a 2020 graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. She has organized many protests for social justice, including the recent one that, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “focused on gentrification and evictions and their impact on housing inequities.”

Michaela has an attorney, who is representing her pro bono - for free, and her $5,000 bail was covered by the Richmond Community Bail Fund, but she is still in a difficult financial situation. She had taken off work for two weeks to concentrate on the protests, and after her arrest was told by her employer that she couldn’t come back to work until the charges were resolved. She is also in the process of moving. She has Venmo and Cashapp accounts and would appreciate any financial help.

With Michaela’s permission, the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality is urging support for this courageous advocate for housing equality and racial justice. Any contribution, no matter how modest, would be greatly appreciated, and would also be a show of support for our brave young people on the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter struggle.

Please give what you can.

Venmo: michaelahatton

Cashapp: $Michaela1998

Further, the Defenders are joining the calls by other supporters to contact Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin and demand that these spurious charges against Michaela Hatton be dropped immediately. Police abuse is the crime, not protesting against it. Email: colette4rva@gmail.com.

This appeal is issued by the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, whose members have participated in the BLM protests of the past three weeks and did jail support for those arrested May 31 for protesting during the curfew. On Facebook and here at https://defendersfje.blogspot.com/