- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

RICHMOND — Hundreds of reporters and curious spectators lined up outside U.S. District court in Richmond to witness Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s first public appearance since being indicted with three associates for operating a dogfighting ring.

Police closed several streets near downtown to accommodate animal rights protestors and some groups voicing their support for the embattled star.

Protestors included members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has urged the NFL to suspend Vick and Nike to stop selling his signature shoe model.

“We want to make sure that people don’t lose sight of the fact that regardless of Michael Vick’s guilt or innocence, dogfighting doesn’t start or stop with him,” said Dan Shannon, an assistant director with PETA interviewed by The Washington Times outside the courthouse on Main Street. “There are an estimated 40,000 professional dogfighters in the U.S. They may not all be in the NFL, but they deserve their day in court.”

The courtroom was expected to open for spectators at 2 p.m. Vick, 27, will arrive for a bond hearing scheduled at 3:30 p.m. The arraignment will start at 4 p.m.

Many of the people in line waiting have no interest in the case but simply hope to get an up-close glimpse of the quarterback, who grew up in Newport News and came to fame at Virginia Tech.

The gawkers started lining up at 7 a.m.; at 12:30 p.m., the line to get into the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse began at the quarter of 10th and Main streets and stretched around two blocks.

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