It was kind of like a gang turf war scene from “West Side Story” where the white Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks battle over New York City playground b-ball court space – except Front Royal’s crack law enforcement apparatus intervened before blood was shed at the Front Royal Town Gazebo late Wednesday afternoon, July 25.
Of course unlike the movie, there NEVER was any threat of blood being shed here – other than maybe this reporter’s for playfully making the gang turf war analogy in the first place. But hey, if you can’t laugh about the disparate realities of pro and anti-Trump contingents occupying the same planet but news sources in galaxies far, far apart, what can you laugh about these days (even with the political fate of the Republic at stake)?
At issue Wednesday, July 25, was the space in and around the Town Gazebo at 5 p.m. Since March 8, 2017, local activist Len Sherp has gathered at the gazebo with supporters of his Vigil for Democracy to protest Trump and his Administration policies and practices.
As Sherp told Royal Examiner 16 months ago, the impetus for the vigils is his concern that the then newly-elected president, his administration, Congressional and appointed-judicial majorities were threatening to undermine ideals upon which the American Republic was founded, and upon which it has evolved over two-plus centuries.
“The government still works for us – “of the people, for the people” – and just because one party has achieved a majority doesn’t mean they shouldn’t show the same reverence for the democratic principals and values of honesty, openness and fairness which have made us a beacon for two centuries,” Sherp told Royal Examiner at the outset of his weekly political vigils.
Within a month a small pro-Trump counter-demonstration appeared across Chester Street in the person of Front Royal Pawn Shop owner Ralph Waller and nephew Michael, who sat quietly on a bench under the town clock with a Trump-Pence campaign sign in front to their pawn shop. Waller told us then that his counter-demonstration was driven by not only his support of the president, but also a feeling that anti-Trump themes of the vigil signage were “divisive”.
Told the demonstrators across the street were concerned that it was the president himself who was encouraging divisiveness with his political rhetoric, as Royal Examiner reported at the time eventually a friendly dialogue between the Wallers and vigil participants began seeking common ground. A mutual concern for preservation of the environment became that initial common ground. Over the past year that dialogue has had its up and downs, but the fact it has ups is a hopeful sign in an increasingly divisive American political landscape.
Gradually over the spring and summer months of 2017 other Trump supporters joined the Wallers on the public right of way in front of the pawn shop. Judging from their rosary praying, pro-life signage and images of Mary, the mother of Jesus, those newer Trump supporters were largely from the conservative Catholic community.
And since late April-May 2017 the opposing sides have sparred with their political signage and sometimes voices across the Chester Street political divide.
A new wrinkle
With the crucial 2018 mid-term Congressional elections about three-and-a-half months away, on July 18, 2018 a new player joined the scene, the Warren County Republican Committee. While individual committee members may join the Waller-led pro-Trump contingent from time to time, to our knowledge the Republican Committee had never previously engaged under its party banner.
According to participants on both sides that initial, July 18, county Republican Committee presence appeared on the Waller pawn shop side of Chester Street.
However, according to an e-mail circulated Wednesday morning, July 25 by Warren County Republican Committee Chairman Steve Kurtz the committee was promoting a second weekly Republican candidates and Donald Trump Rally “at the Front Royal Gazebo.” The scheduled time listed in Kurtz’s e-mail subject field was 4:30 p.m., a half hour prior to the scheduled start of the town-permitted Vigil for Democracy.
However, at 4: 30 p.m. there were no Republicans on hand at the gazebo, only two teenage girls eating their ice cream from C&C Frozen Treats under the shelter provided by the gazebo from the sporadic rains of the day. At 4:40 p.m. this reporter left the rainy, ice-cream-eating demonstration.
But when he returned at 5:05 p.m. it was a different story. Anti-Trump Vigil for Democracy organizer Len Sherp and eight supporters were gathered near the gazebo IN the rain, while Kurtz and four Republican companions had the high ground of the gazebo OUT of the now light rain.
Following a phone call from the Vigil side of the street, first FRPD Officer Dave Fogle and then Captain Jason Ryman joined the scene. A few conversations later the result was that the Republicans began un-taping their Trump-Pence, Corey Stewart and Ben Cline campaign signs from the gazebo posts, descended the steps and crossed Chester Street to what over the past 16 months has become the traditional and permitted Wednesday afternoon pro-Trump side of the street.
However, neither the Wallers nor the conservative Catholics were present to greet the reinforcements. The Wallers are reportedly on a fishing vacation, possibly in the wilds of Canada if I correctly recall stories of their past summer fishing ventures. – HEY Ralph, that’s not illegal immigration or a trade-war foray against the Canadian fishing industry, is it?
After Officer Fogle crossed Chester Street to talk with the relocated Republicans and Ryman spoke briefly with Sherp and his group, we queried the FRPD captain on exactly what had transpired. Or to paraphrase Sgt. Joe Friday from the early police drama “Dragnet” of this reporter’s youth – “Just the facts, Captain Ryman, just the facts.”
Facts one and two are that the Vigil for Democracy has been permitted by the town government to gather for an hour at a specified time weekly “in the gazebo area” which according to Ryman includes the gazebo itself; and that permitted or not permitted you are not allowed to adhere signs to public property like the gazebo support posts.
So it appears that our defacto “Sharks” (self-described “Vigilites” here, Puerto Ricans in the movie) won this round of our own “West Side Story” turf war saga, while the “Jets” (conservative whites both here and in the movie) were banished out of the playground, I mean to the other side of Chester Street where as noted above, they are permitted to be.
I don’t know – is there anything to make out of the fact that in this instance the rule of law sided with those locals concerned that President Trump and the sitting Republican Congressional majority are engaged in a systematic assault on the rule of law regarding a Trump Justice Department-commissioned and lifelong Republican-administered investigation into the past and current behavior of a sitting president?
Or that the rule of law came down against a local political committee whose chairman wrote in soliciting participants for the July 25 Republican candidate and pro-Trump rally that it would be “countering the Un-American DemocRATic Anti Trump Protest”?
Nah, probably just a meaningless coincidence … But don’t forget, in “West Side Story” the Jets and Sharks kept revisiting their playground turf war – stay tuned for updates as the mid-terms 2018 approach. See Related Story
Last call to share library feedback and win!
Samuels Public Library’s community survey will close on December 31st. The survey opened on September 1st and has drawn in nearly 300 responses so far. The Library hopes to receive 400 responses.
“We are very excited about the number of responses we’ve received so far,” says Executive Director Michelle Ross, “Our community has wonderful ideas about new library services and we hope to gather even more of those ideas before the survey closes.”
Each person who completes a survey may be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire HD 10 Tablet. Limit one entry per person. Every Warren County citizen is invited to share their feedback to enhance our community’s Library.
Print copies of the survey can be found at each Samuels Library public service desk. The survey can also be completed online.
Results from the survey will be shared on the Library website, www.samuelslibrary.net.
About Samuels Public Library
Samuels Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community. A 501(c)(3) organization, the library annually serves 200,000 visitors, checks out nearly 400,000 books, electronic and digital services, and provides essential computer access, wireless service and public meeting spaces for the community. To learn more, visit www.samuelslibrary.net or call (540) 635-3153.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Canada Goose
Clean up your fishing line!
This Canada Goose was found and rescued in Sherando Park in Stephens City, VA. The finder came across this bird struggling in the water while entangled in fishing line. Luckily, the goose was untangled and transported to the Center for care.
We see many cases each year of animals (mostly waterbirds) entangled in fishing line. Please help our wildlife and make every effort to retrieve lost hooks/sinkers/line while fishing, and even if you aren’t the person who left it, remove line and other dangerous debris that you find while out enjoying nature.
This goose did not suffer any fractures, but has muscle damage that will take at least a few days to resolve if all goes well.
The struggle and near drowning experience puts this goose at extreme risk of exertional myopathy (muscle damage caused by extreme stress and struggling that creates physiological imbalances and can result in death). We are doing everything possible to monitor for signs of this condition and address changes quickly.
We are glad to be able to help this bird, but many aren’t so lucky. The best prevention is to clean up the dangerous trash we put out in nature. Please dispose of hooks and line properly!
This goose is our 3,237 patient in 2021!
Our patients can’t pay for their care and we don’t receive state or Federal funding for what we do. We rely on your donations to help wild animals and return them to their wild homes. Please consider donating to BRWC today.
Children honor memory of local librarian
The children collected some of their favorite books and donated them to the library. The books will be used as prizes for the children’s reading club. They are hopeful that the books will help cultivate the love of reading, just as Kathy did through her work. Kathy Jacob worked with many teachers, staff, and children from Mountain Laurel, whenever they visited the library.
‘Tis the Season for Kindness
A local singer/songwriter has a message for the world in his debut release starting with the opening lyrics, “Put the kind back in humankind”. “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” was written by local musician and businessman Shae Parker and recorded in Memphis, TN earlier this year. Parker, who has been playing music semi-professionally for the past three decades is no stranger to helping convey messages. The sign maker and owner of Hanna Sign Company also spent years as a radio broadcaster and as a Front Royal Town Councilman and Vice Mayor.
“I’ve always written songs”, says Parker. “In retrospect, I’ve always helped to convey messages. Whether it was a commercial on the radio, a sign for someone’s business, or as a public servant I’ve always tried to help others convey their message.”
Like many during the pandemic, Parker says he did some soul searching and decided he needed to put his own message out in song. After combing through years of writings and narrowing down a list of about two dozen, he formulated a plan to record as many songs as possible. Shae says he reached out to a childhood friend and fellow former disc jockey, Till Palmer who is the Chief Engineer at Ecko Records in Memphis for help.
“Initially the plan was to take the band with me (River Driven Band), but schedules didn’t align and I realized I either needed to reschedule or refocus on a solo project”, said Parker. “A big part of my pandemic soul searching revolved around doing this before I turned 50, so I headed to Memphis for a solo project”.
Fourteen songs were recorded in Memphis over three days according to Parker, with twelve of those planned for release. Most of the overdubs were handled by Shae before leaving, but he says over the coming months the remaining overdubs will be completed by him and his bandmates from the River Driven Band before being sent back to Palmer for mastering. The other two tracks, “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” were independently released in November by Parker on most digital streaming platforms.
“SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” has a message that I felt all humans needed to hear”, explains Parker. “It’s about kindness and how easy it is to just be kind, that’s why I had to put it out first”.
Shae says that independently releasing his music has its own challenges. He says it has been a learning curve from researching and finding a digital distributor to upload the songs to Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube Music among others, to registering songwriting credits with BMI and SESAC.
“There is a reason it’s called the Music Business”, quips Parker. “What is an ISRC number or a DDP? Things like that I didn’t have a clue about as a performer, but Till being in the industry gave me a lot of insight of what needed to be done to make this a reality.”
While Parker maintains the music is the best thing to come out of the experience, he is quick to point out the joy of working with a lifelong friend and using a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior on some tracks that were bought new by Palmer’s grandfather, Ralph Palmer in 1956. He also finds irony in his and Palmer’s past on radio given that a fellow DJ, Rick Dee’s recorded his number one hit “DISCO DUCK” in the same studio in the 1970s. Parker also recounts that his nickname at 4H camp growing up (where he and Palmer first met) was Duckie. Irony indeed, however despite a good beat you can dance to any other similarities in the compositions end there as Parker’s message of kindness prevails.
The Daily Planet/Shoe Productions studio was built by STAX Records founder Jim Stewart and Bobby Manuel (Booker T & the MG’s) shortly after the shuttering of STAX in 1975. In 1995 John Ward bought the studio and changed the name to Ecko Studios/Records, an American Blues and Soul Blues label that has released albums by Rufus Thomas, Ollie Nightingale, Bill Coday, Barbara Carr, and others.
Shae Parker’s first two releases “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” are available on all streaming platforms or wherever you listen to music. Links to the songs and information on booking can be found on his website at www.SongsByShae.com.
Triple your impact this Giving Tuesday
Today is Giving Tuesday!
What is Giving Tuesday? It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and was created to encourage people, after spending money on physical items for the holidays, to give back to charities and their local communities.
It’s an important day to support Blue Ridge Wildlife Center because your donation could be matched twice!
- Starting at 8am, donations made through Facebook will be matched with an $8 million dollar match pledged by the social media platform itself until the matching funds are exhausted.
- Your donation will ALSO be matched by our generous Board of Directors up to $15,000! (You can donate through our website, by check, or through Facebook to qualify for this match.)
That gives your donation the opportunity to be TRIPLED, going further than any other time!
We receive no state nor Federal funding for what we do. We rely on your donations to save wild animals and return them to the wild. Donations enable us to afford the foods and specialty formulas we feed out to our 3,200+ patients each year. They allow us to build and maintain our enclosures to house these patients and keep the lights on and water running. They pay for the surgical supplies, medications, and anesthetics needed for the 150+ surgeries we perform each year. They pay for the antibiotics and pain medications needed by the >60% of our patients that are suffering from some sort of human-caused traumatic injury.
We need YOUR help to maximize matching funds and to care for the ever-increasing number of patients we’re seeing each year. Please give generously on Giving Tuesday to let your donation go further!
Thank you for supporting our native wildlife!
Accused Brinklow murderer gets 30-years-9-months on plea agreement and probation violation charges
Following emotional testimony from Jennifer Brinklow, the mother of 20-year-old Tristen Brinklow on the devastating impact on her life of her son’s 2019 murder, and a perhaps surprisingly emotional series of apologies from his accused killer for his role in that murder, the Commonwealth and defense counsels debated at which end of sentencing guidelines 38-year-old Richard Matthew Crouch should be incarcerated on Second Degree Murder and related and unrelated charges he submitted guilty pleas to as part of a plea agreement.
By plea agreement already accepted by Warren County Circuit Court Judge William Sharp, the sentencing range was between 8-years-and-7-months and 28 years-and-9-months. The other involved suspect, George Good, received a 10-year prison sentence with 25 years suspended on August 13, on a similar plea agreement involving two charges of helping Crouch dispose of Brinklow’s body and a variety of unrelated charges. Good was 29 at the time of his sentencing three months ago.
After hearing about an hour and a half of testimony, questions, and arguments Judge Sharp adjourned to chambers at noon, Monday, November 29th to consider his sentencing decision. After 17 minutes Judge Sharp returned to deliver his ruling. That ruling was the high-end 28-years-and-9-months according to sentencing parameters of the plea agreement, after imposing two, 5-year sentences on concealing and defiling (allowing to decompose) a dead body; and 30 years on the Second Degree Murder charge. Crouch will also get credit for time served, about two years. It was said that currently it is estimated that inmates will serve about 85% of their sentence with good behavior time taken off. Crouch also had four, 5-year sentences related to an earlier attack on an ex-girlfriend and his drug possession with intent to distribute charges imposed with all 20 years suspended. He will be on supervised probation for five years after his release.
While getting credit for his time served, two years was later tacked on to the 28-year-9-month sentence, on a probation violation charge argued outside the plea agreement. Arguing that aspect of the cases, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Nick Manthos countered defense co-counsel Eric Wiseley’s call to waive the two additional years of active incarceration after his client received nearly three times the sentence George Good did for their respective roles in Brinklow’s murder.
Manthos, as Commonwealth Attorney John Bell had earlier, noted that while Crouch held to his story that it was Good who actually beat Brinklow to death, the physical evidence matched Good’s story that it was Crouch who attacked and strangled Brinklow to death in a methamphetamine-induced paranoid delusional state. Crouch did admit to being up for at least five days straight, perhaps as many as 10 days, doing an extraordinary amount of methamphetamine – he estimated at 3.5 grams (an 8-ball) to twice that amount per day – while trying to finance being on the run from police from an incident several days earlier in which he non-fatally had strangled an ex-girlfriend.
The Commonwealth noted that in his earlier attack on the ex-girlfriend, Crouch had not only choked her but cut off a large portion of her hair. When Good led authorities to Brinklow’s decomposed body, a bone in the neck was discovered broken at autopsy indicative of strangulation, and a large portion of Brinklow’s hair was discovered cut off. Those aspects of the earlier Crouch attack on the ex-girlfriend were not known to Good, the prosecution told the court.
The fact that all the crimes he enter guilty pleas to, including the assault on his ex, the methamphetamine use, and dealing, as well as Brinklow’s murder, occurred while Crouch was on probation led Judge Sharp to side with the prosecution on the necessity of imposing the two probation violation years hanging over Crouch – “There has to be a consequence, otherwise probation means nothing,” Judge Sharp said in rendering his decision on that second part of the day’s hearing on Crouch’s fate behind bars.
While admitting to the drug use and paranoid state leading him to believe that he was going to be robbed of his meth stash worth several thousand dollars, Crouch insisted that Brinklow coming at him with a knife and Good’s response of pulling him off Crouch and beating him to death was not a part of his drug-induced delusions. However, it seemed Crouch and his attorney in the plea sentencing, Howard Manheimer, may have been the only two in court buying into that scenario. It appeared seven relatives and friends accompanied Jennifer Brinklow to court Monday.
Several times asked by the court if he had anything to say before decisions were rendered, Crouch in a low, emotional voice expressed remorse, saying, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry with all my heart.” Crouch told the court and Brinklow’s mother that he had become involved in a jailhouse ministry conducted at RSW and related drug abuse counseling to try and steer inmates away from drug addiction upon their release.
He also looked at Tristen’s mother testifying from the witness box directly in front of him as she recounted the multiple impacts, including being told she now suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Shock Disorder) in the wake of her son’s murder. “I didn’t know a person could live without a heart and soul,” Mrs. Brinklow told the courtroom of her life since December 13, 2019, when she was informed it was her missing son’s body discovered in an abandoned freezer near the river. The murder occurred in September 2019.
She said tears came often, stimulated by “a smell, food, a cloud – ANYTHING. I never had anxiety, now there are places I can’t go without breaking down … It’s beyond obvious those two did not know Trey – a few minutes with him and he’d give you anything he had … Four days after he turned 20 you took his life – he was just a kid.”
Following the rendering of his plea agreement sentence of 28-years-9-months, Judge Sharp told Crouch he hoped he made the best out of the portion of his life that will now be spent in prison; that he was truly remorseful for letting a dangerous, illegal drug get a grip on his life that led to this point; and that he would continue to work to counsel others away from a similar fate, and turn his life in a positive direction.
“I wish you luck,” the judge told Crouch.
“Thank you,” Crouch replied.