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Activist who exposed breast in Virginia protest freed after being held without bail

Michelle Renay Sutherland, 45, New York, was exposed of her chest outside the Capitol in Virginia during a protest in support of the Equal Rights Amendment was freed Thursday after being held without bail.
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A New York woman who imitated Virginia state seal by exposing her breast outside the Capital during a protest in support of the Equal Rights Amendment was freed Thursday morning after the first to be held without bail.

Michelle Renay Sutherland, 45, was arrested on charges of indecent exposure Monday. The Richmond Times-Dispatch report of a magistrate to set bail for Sutherland at $700, but the Richmond General Court of the chief judge, Lawrence B. Cann III, on Monday ordered her held until her March 21 court date. The attorneys said holding a person without bond for a non-violent crime is unusual.

Sutherland’s lawyer, David Baugh, said Cann agreed to the release of her “on a $1,500 personal recognizance bond,” The Washington Post reported.

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Sutherland “did not have that amount of money, but would have to pay if they don’t show up for her court date in late March,” the Post reported.

Baugh told The Washington Post that the judge was not aware of “the story” of the indecent exposure charge, and did not know she was protesting. Baugh said the judge apologized in a session.

“She is clearly not a flasher,” Baugh told The Washington Post of Sutherland. “It was a protest about the state of the seal and the ERA, and none of that was reported on the warrant.”

The state seal on Virginia’s flag depicts the Roman goddess Virtus “, which is the genius of the Commonwealth,” according to the situation on the website. The goddess is seen with their foot on a fallen tyrant with their breasts exposed.

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“I am not a gender; I’m actually dressed up as the woman who, like, literally the flag,” Sutherland was heard to say in a video, while she was arrested, NBC Washington reported. “This is what they do for women who stand up for themselves.”

The arrest drew the attention of the ACLU of Virginia who said in a tweet: “With a chest as part of a satirical protest is not obscene. The real obscenity in the Capitol’s legislators to stand in the way of the constitutional principle of equality against the will of the people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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