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Police Stifled Counter Protest, Family Says 

"Our rights as citizens of the United States were violated so a rally could go on that is supporting illegal activity without opposition," Jason Edwards wrote in an e-mail to WRVA radio host Mac Watson.

The Sunday rally, which drew a roughly estimated 1,000 people, was intended to demonstrate support for legislation that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship and to oppose legislation that would make illegal immigrants felons. Police say it was a calm and peaceful event.

Edwards arrived at the rally around 2:30 p.m. with his wife, Kristin, and his brother Greg Edwards. They carried two signs that read: "Secure our borders" and "No amnesty." Edwards says, "It's not an anti-immigration thing, it's anti-illegal immigration."

The small group stood about 30 yards outside the perimeter of the main crowd, Edwards says, "just holding our signs, not yelling or anything like that, just talking amongst each other."

As the rally crowd grew, Edwards says, he and his family held their ground. Then a Richmond City Police captain approached, he says, told the Edwards group they were encroaching on the crowd and had to move away.

The Edwardses protested that they weren't doing anything, Jason Edwards says. But he says the police officer only replied, "I don't care. Y'all have to leave."

The Edwardses complied and retreated until they again stood about 30 yards from the edge of the crowd. The officer directed them to move farther back to Franklin Street, Jason Edwards says.

The police gave no reason for forcing them to move, Edwards says. "The public was invited to the rally. It was a public park, but we were actually expelled from a public park for doing nothing more than holding signs."

Nelson says police "have an obligation to maintain peace and order," and thus the group was asked to move back for its own safety. "They have as much right to be there as anybody else," Nelson says. She emphasizes that the Edwardses were not told to leave the park.

"That's absolutely not what they did," Jason Edwards asserts. Police directed them to stand where they could show their signs to the cars going by, he says, but they couldn't be inside the park. "Wish we could have had a doggone video camera," he says regretfully. S

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