ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Cellphone video shows people chanting “protect trans kids” while one person was taken away in handcuffs at Thursday night’s Roanoke County School Board meeting.
Shortly after, you see the person behind the camera, Benjamin James, approach School Board Chairman Brent Hudson.
After a heated exchange, James was taken into custody.
A Roanoke County Police spokesperson identified those arrested as 37-year-old Shannon “Dan” Clawson and 39-year-old Ben James. Both were charged with trespassing.
On Friday, free from the handcuffs, James says he was surprised things escalated.
“It was pretty interesting to me that I was put in handcuffs and taken out of building and they couldn’t tell me why. So that was a little rough,” James said.
James says he attended the meeting as a Roanoke County native and ally of the transgender community.
“I didn’t feel like I had done anything that I should have been arrested for,” James said. “It kind of seems like they just were tired of people being there in opposition to what they wanted to accomplish, is what it felt like to me.”
According to Roanoke County Public Schools’ policy, “The chair is responsible for the orderly conduct of the meeting and rules on such matters as the appropriateness of the subject being presented and length of time for such presentation.”
After clearing the room, Hudson had this to say: “I don’t care what gender someone claims to be, we’re going to give that child or staff member, or anybody else, the support that they need to be successful in Roanoke County Public Schools. Every square inch of our buildings is a safe space,” he said.
Tiffany Sandifer, a mom of two Roanoke County students who spoke at the meeting, says she’s organizing a school board recall vote.
“All of these folks that are speaking out at the school board meetings love our schools,” Sandifer said. “We love our students. We love our community and we want it to be the best that it can be. And that means removing extremist elements from our school board.”
Despite the charge, James says he wouldn’t do anything differently.
“There’s a lot of us here that care about our trans community,” James said. “I don’t regret anything that I did.”