Sunday, June 25, 2023–7:51 p.m.
-Diane Wagner, Rome News-Tribune-
A woman known for wearing a tin foil hat at a Floyd County Commission meeting and the chair of a local extremist Republican splinter group were among the four arrested at Saturday’s Rome Pride festivities.
Angela Antonella Rubino, 41; Bradley Steven Barnes, 39; Melissa Renee Smith, 37; and William David Smith, 37, were each charged with violating the assembly permit ordinance while protesting the event.
Assistant Police Chief Debbie Burnett said a local priest obtained a permit for his small band of protesters and there were no issues in the area where they set up. However, Rubino’s group refused to seek a permit and rejected police officers’ warnings to disperse.
“We had contact with them for months in advance,” Burnett said Sunday. “We told them ‘we don’t care if you protest, just get a permit and do it the right way.’”
William Smith was additionally charged with prohibited conduct during assemblies. He, Melissa Smith and Barnes were booked and released on their own recognizance. Rubino was released to Probation, according to Floyd County Jail records.
Barnes is chair of the newly formed Etowah chapter of the Georgia Republican Assembly, a splinter group that calls itself “the conscience of the Republican Party.” The GRA has a record of bucking so-called “establishment” Republicans such as Gov. Brian Kemp, contending they are not conservative enough.
Rubino, the chapter’s vice chair, wore a tin foil hat to the Jan. 24 county commission meeting where she spoke out about the earlier arrest of Mark Kenneth Swanson on a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a public meeting. She and several other members make frequent appearances at city and county government meetings, often questioning election integrity and the boards’ adherence to the U.S. Constitution.
Burnett said they met previously with Rubino and Barnes to explain the city ordinance requiring an assembly permit. Police Maj. Chris DeHart and the event organizers also had spoken with them, she said.
“They also came to the public safety committee meeting and the attorney there explained to them that the ordinance is valid,” Burnett said. “The courts have upheld an exception for breaking news like the George Floyd protests, but they knew about this a year ago.”
On Saturday several officers, including DeHart, warned the group that they couldn’t stay at the spot where they had set up outside the festival at Heritage Park. Burnett said they were given 5 minutes to disperse and they walked away — but then they came back and refused to leave.
“We uphold the Constitution,” Burnett said. “We told them we’d help them get the permit, walk them through the process, but they refused. They had ample time to comply.”
This story is possible because of a news-sharing agreement with the Rome News-Tribune. More information can be found at northwestgeorgianews.com: