Pasta supper surprise: Protest interrupts Dem dinner party

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello, who opposes the pipeline, was at the fundraiser where protesters temporarily took the stage.  Photo by Jen Fariello Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello, who opposes the pipeline, was at the fundraiser where protesters temporarily took the stage. Photo by Jen Fariello

Gubernatorial candidates Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello and three lieutenant governor hopefuls were in town over the weekend for the Charlottesville Democratic Party’s 17th annual pasta supper and auction. New on this year’s menu was an Atlantic Coast Pipeline protest in which seven sign-carrying UVA students took the stage to demand that the candidates oppose the $6 billion project.

Perriello has been vocal about his opposition to the pipeline, while Northam has been silent on the issue, but has reportedly accepted more than $97,000 from Dominion Energy, a major company backing the pipeline, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

First-year Clara Camber, a member of the university’s Climate Action Society, which organized the protest, filmed the protest from the crowd.

“When the young women demanded resistance from Democratic candidates to pipelines that threaten Virginia, they were grabbed and pushed by local party leaders,” Camber says. “The moderator led the crowd in chanting, ‘Leave the stage!’ while others shouted back, ‘Let them speak!’ and ‘They deserve to be heard.’”

Protesting the fundraiser was a strategic move, she adds.

“People might expect a protest in a Republican fundraising event, but, honestly, I think that going to the Democratic party was [better] because we have a better shot with them,” she says. “They are people who are already a lot closer to where I align my views.”

The girls were asked several times by the party’s co-chairs to leave the stage and they refused, says Erin Monaghan, the local Democratic party’s communications representative. “Nothing like this kind of action has ever been part of what is considered a social event before.”

But Camber says her group isn’t discouraged.

“We’ll be back,” she says. “As youth in our community, we feel surprisingly neglected. We’re supposed to be in this progressive party and we’re called upon to knock on doors and help them out, but they don’t really want to listen to us.”