Capitol Police apologize after officer forced student to stand during Pledge

Virginia State Capitol
The Virginia State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Capitol Police apologized after an officer physically compelled a 16-year-old student to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance in the Senate gallery during last week’s short-lived special session on gun legislation.

Monica Hutchinson, a Henrico resident, said her son, Jae, was at the Capitol on a trip with 42 members of the Boys and Girls Club. He chose to remain seated during the Pledge to bring attention to “police brutality, civil rights attacks, racism, attacks on the LGBTQ community — anything that makes the statement ‘liberty and justice for all’ not ring true.”

That’s when the officer, who is white, approached Jae, who is black, “tapped his shoulder first then grabbed his shirt to pull him up,” she said.

Sen. Jenn McCellan, D-Richmond, organized a meeting Friday that included Jae, the officer, Capitol Police Chief Col. Steve Pike and Senate Clerk. Susan Scharr.

“The officer said she had never been put in that situation,” Hutchinson said. “Even though ignorance is no excuse, I do appreciate her being honest to admit that, grow from it and do better.”

She called the apology they offered sincere and commended Pike for committing to meet with a larger group of students.

“He’s agreed to sit down with our kids at the club, the leaders from the club, and listen to their stories and better understand the why behind protests like this,” she said.

Capitol Police confirmed the meeting, which Hutchinson described in a Facebook post shared by Blue Virginia.

“What you read is absolutely accurate,” Pike said. “We met the family … and talked through the issue at hand and look forward to all the positive things that we as agency can take from these types of matters and look forward to working with a group of young men and women here at the Capitol.”