Activist Charged In Clash With Aide

By Nikita Stewart and Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 14, 2007

Government watchdog Dorothy Brizill was arrested and charged with simple assault yesterday after an aide to the deputy mayor for education said Brizill grabbed the lanyard she was wearing around her neck.

Brizill, 59, was clearly shaken as she was led out of the John A. Wilson Building in handcuffs shortly after 5 p.m. She was also defiant.

"Don't try to do it nice," she said as three officers guided her out of the press room of the city government building.

Earlier, Brizill had been in the office of Deputy Mayor Victor Reinoso to inquire about a panel that officials said helped set the criteria used in the selection of Michelle A. Rhee to be school chancellor. Brizill said she asked for the phone number of a panel member.

Brizill said Tara Bridgett, an aide to Reinoso, told her that she would have to get the number from aides to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). Mafara Hobson, Fenty's spokeswoman, confirmed that.

That's where the similarities end between the two accounts.

Brizill said that she asked Bridgett for her name and title and that Bridgett did not respond. Brizill said she leaned in to get a better look at Bridgett's identification badge, which was hanging from her neck. Brizill said Bridgett jerked back and told her to leave.

Hobson said Bridgett told police that Brizill grabbed the aide's badge and grasped her shirt. Bridgett was not available for comment. Hobson said Bridgett had gone to the doctor after feeling neck pain.

Brizill, who runs the Web site D.C. Watch, denied pulling at Bridgett's clothing or grabbing at her badge.

"I've been at this for 20 years," she said. "Why would I need to assault someone to get a phone number? Does that make any sense?"

More than an hour lapsed between the incident and Brizill's arrest. She asked whether she could testify at a public hearing about the May 1 special election, and security officers granted the request.

During the arrest, an officer told a reporter to stop taking photographs and to leave the press room.

When officers closed the door, Brizill was heard asking for her purse to be zipped properly. She also said she needed her notepad to write everything down. Brizill was cited and released late last night. A court hearing is set for July 3.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company