MARION, Va. — Many citizens who didn’t take part in the July 3 protests in Marion but observed the massive law enforcement response wondered how much it cost taxpayers.
At this point, town officials don’t know.
Last week, Marion Town Manager Bill Rush said, “We are just now beginning to put together that cost analysis. To be sure, it will be several thousand dollars.”
More than 100 officers from about nine agencies actively worked in Marion during the two events, while dozens more were on standby. The events included a Black Lives Matter rally and march and a counterprotest.
Traditionally, Rush said, “municipalities work under mutual aid agreements, which says if a municipality calls other departments for aid, they will send what they can to help. That usually is a few vehicles and a few personnel, and the participating agency absorbs the cost.”
However, the town manager added that what was assembled during the protests was the largest law enforcement officer presence in Southwest Virginia in memory.
“It was precisely that assemblage that deterred a larger attendance from outside players and allowed us to substantially keep the two protest groups separated, which led to intense, but not violent, interaction,” he added.
He also noted that the day ended with no arrests, no property damage and only one injury, when a man collapsed.
The town will explore the possibilities through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, but “it isn’t clear yet what the thresholds for reimbursement are,” Rush said.
The question came up during a recent meeting of the Marion Town Council. As the council praised its Police Department, community development and public works staffs, among others, for their handling of the protests, Councilman Avery Cornett also lauded their efforts.
“I appreciate all the chief did to uphold everyone’s rights, but I know it came at a great cost,” Cornett said, adding that he’d like to get a firm figure of the costs for further review and discussion.
Also during the meeting, Marion Police Chief John Clair presented the council with possible language to add to the town code regarding the permit process for demonstrations, parades and processions. The town code now, he said, has broad language without many parameters. The language he presented would tighten up that language.
The paper was developed using the “Permitting Demonstrations: Guiding Principles” white paper by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
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