State Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) and former Attorney General Tony Troy are defending 13 members of the Mattaponi tribe; Chief Mark Custalow brought charges of trespassing against the tribe members after an October 30 protest.
Tribe members left notices of grievances on the doors of all the tribal leaders. The members say leadership is not allowing women to vote in tribal matters, and that their protest was peaceful and done under the eye of the county sheriff.
“You will not define our legacy,” a YouTube slideshow of the event states. “The stand for justice and equality has only just begun.”
Custalow sought a protective order and filed charges against some of the participants, saying that they were a mob with the intent to foment violence and presented a threat of “imminent physical harm,” according to a press release from the Stanley Law Group. The charges against the participants include trespass after forbidden — when someone enters or remains on someone else’s property after being forbidden to do so.
Troy said in the press release, “That anyone of any authority – be it the Chief or the Sheriff–can assert that these acts were trespassing–or more egregiously–that they constituted mob violence and that the individuals gathered with the purpose and intent of committing acts of assault or battery is simply at odds with the facts and is ludicrous. The sanctity of the right to petition will be defended and the Chief should not be allowed to use local authorities to stamp out voices he prefers not to hear.”
On Thursday, the cases were scheduled for an arraignment, but the hearings were continued to a future date.
“I simply refuse to believe that is even possible here in the 21st Century that Mattaponi Chief Custalow and the Mattaponi Tribal Council refuse to permit a peaceful assembly of their fellow tribal members who won’t allow the women of their tribe to vote for their leaders,” Stanley said in the release. “We stand ready to defend our clients against these ridiculous charges, and Tony Troy and I will not stop until we vindicate every single member of the Mattaponi tribe who has been wrongly accused by Chief Kustalow.”