October 27, 2020 News & Features » Cover Story

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Emilee Manzi Hasbrouck, 36 

Co-founder of RVA Legal Collaborative

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Scott Elmquist

On May 31, approximately 235 people were arrested in the city protesting police brutality and systemic racism.

Employed by the state as a public defender representing people facing the death penalty, Hasbrouck wanted to help. She co-founded the RVA Legal Collaborative as an organizational tool to connect protesters with lawyers willing to do pro bono work. It worked with activists and RVA Bail Fund to spread the word, setting up a hotline and email account to make attorney referrals. So far, it has matched over 160 people with lawyers.

The commonwealth’s attorney waived jail time for all curfew offenses, meaning those arrested would not have been entitled to court-appointed lawyers – so RVA Legal Collaborative and its college interns helped greatly. Hasbrouck is personally representing people arrested at GwarBar and the jail protests, as well as a client shot at point-blank range in the back of the head with a rubber bullet who was hospitalized for three days, possibly sustaining a brain injury. His charges of assaulting an officer were dismissed because authorities had accused the wrong person, she says.

“People who are protesting are being labeled as looters and rioters, and that is so off-base. What I’m seeing on body cam video and regular citizens’ videos: It’s not the protesters wreaking havoc,” she explains, noting that typically, police are asking for identifying information, the protesters don’t give it and are not legally required to do so and the police escalate the situation. “Unfortunately, the people acting without respect are members of the Richmond Police Department.”

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