Police arrest protesters as curfew takes effect in city
After a day of cleanup and peaceful protest, hundreds of people march downtown
A large group of protesters marched in downtown Richmond late Sunday night in violation of a city curfew that was announced earlier in the day.
“Arrests have begun,” the Richmond Police Department tweeted about 9:45 p.m. “Approximately two dozen people are in custody.”
At 10:15, police tweeted that there were additional arrests, and a final count would be available later.
A group of several hundred protesters had left the Robert E. Lee statue and marched downtown after 8 p.m. with the city under curfew, leading to the arrests.
The curfew was imposed after protests that started out peacefully ended Friday and
Saturday nights with injuries to police and community members, the destruction and looting of businesses, and vandalism to dozens of buildings and monuments. One man was critically wounded by gunfire.
The curfew, authorized by Gov. Ralph Northam at the request of Mayor Levar Stoney, extends from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m., Stoney said at a Sunday morning news conference in which he condemned the riots and stated that the curfew “will be enforced.” It carries with it a charge of a Class 1 misdemeanor and will be in effect nightly until 6 a.m. Wednesday.
“The past two nights, we’ve seen what could have been peaceful protests turn violent and destructive,” Stoney said. “We’re taking these steps to promote lawful and safe demonstration and protect both people and property.”
Northam declared a state of emergency for Virginia on Sunday afternoon after the protests, activating the National Guard and allocating $350,000 for state and local governments and state response and recovery operations.
“This emergency declaration will provide the necessary support to localities as they work to keep our communities safe,” Northam said in a statement. “There are many voices speaking out for justice and healing across the United States and in our commonwealth, but others are exploiting this pain and inciting violence.”
Richmond police spokesman Gene Lepley said two individuals were arrested in the protests from Saturday night into Sunday morning. He did not know the exact charges, but said one faces breaking and entering or larceny and the other a firearm offense.
Protests against the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis while in police custody and against police brutality stretched across Virginia and the U.S. over the weekend, with many turning violent, prompting a police response involving tear gas and rubber bullets in some cities, among other things.
Richmond was not immune. Statues were defaced. Buildings were burned and looted. Cars were torched.
“I’m scared to death to live in this city,” said Cabell West,
74, a lifelong Richmond native who observed the damage Sunday morning to the United Daughters of the Confederacy headquarters on Arthur Ashe Boulevard after it was set afire. She’s not alone.
Jamé Becks, a mother of two in Richmond, stopped her car in the middle of the street Sunday morning and approached Stoney after the news conference.
“We are angry,” said Becks, who protested against police brutality on Friday night, before she and the mayor hugged. “Change needs to happen.”
In announcing that the National Guard was on alert, Northam said: “They stand ready to assist in protecting our residents, businesses, especially small and black-owned businesses, and the capital city.”
Protests carried over to Sunday, with peaceful demonstrators marching and driving through the city, outraged over the death of Floyd, another unarmed black man. Sunday’s protests remained peaceful, with police helping clear the path for a downtown rally that drew nearly 1,000 people.
The rallies were far different than what the city saw Friday night, when a GRTC bus was set ablaze, and Saturday night, when chaos encamped in downtown Richmond.
“It’s horrible what the police had done, but this is not the answer,” said Karen Meadows of Richmond.
Stoney, Smith: Outsiders responsible for rioting
At a news conference outside Richmond City Hall, Stoney and Police Chief William Smith said people from outside the city — and Virginia — sparked the riots.
“We have people from across the country who have traveled many states to be here. We know that this is an organized effort,” Smith said. “We’re committed to try and identify those that are behind it. And we’re doing our very level best to arrest those that are perpetrating the violence on our community, our city and against our citizens.”
Neither Stoney nor Smith listed specific groups for who might be behind the riots.
Smith said people who went to the protests peacefully had left once things turned violent.
“People coming to our city and vandalizing some legacy black businesses, businesses in general, public transportation that people in this city rely on, under the guise of police accountability, that’s not progress for black America,” said Stoney, adding that the rioters were “taking advantage of our pain, making a mockery of George Floyd’s death, using our frustration, our anger and our heartbreak to create chaos.”
Smith said that during Saturday night’s protests, several buildings were set afire, including a multifamily residence at 309 W. Broad St. that had a child inside. Protesters initially blocked the Richmond Fire Department from reaching the residence, Smith said, but police were eventually able to clear enough space so the fire crew could make it inside the building and rescue the family.
“When you take a legitimate issue and hijack it for unknown reasons, that is unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to the Richmond Police Department and unacceptable to the city of Richmond,” an emotional Smith said.
While the fire department worked to put out the fire, protesters rolled a burning trash can onto Broad Street.
Four police officers were injured during Saturday night’s protests, Smith said.
Under the curfew, residents aren’t allowed on streets, roads, alleys, avenues, parks or other public spaces in the city, according to the order. The exceptions are:
♦ people traveling to and from home, work or places of worship;
♦ hospital personnel;
♦ members of the press;
♦ state and city of Richmond employees and volunteers;
♦ military personnel including but not limited to National Guard troops;
♦ private emergency medical transport workers;
♦ people seeking emergency services; and
♦ other emergency workers. The order says violation of Northam’s order will be a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by less than a year in jail and a fine of no more than $2,500.
While the curfew runs until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Northam can extend it. The state of emergency is until June 29.
Overnight protests leave Richmond staggering
Saturday night’s protests ran into the early hours of Sunday as buildings burned, businesses were damaged and statues along Monument Avenue tagged with graffiti.
The headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was among the buildings set ablaze, with nine firetrucks and a police line three blocks long working to assuage the fire and protect the building.
Graffiti covered much of its facade: “f------ racists,” “police are creepy,” “stole from us” and more.
On the front steps was the word “abolition.”
Nearby, graffiti covered the Stonewall Jackson statue at Arthur Ashe Boulevard and Monument Avenue, where protesters had gathered earlier in the night. The nearby Robert E. Lee memorial was also covered in graffiti, as were the statues of Jefferson Davis and J.E.B. Stuart.
The Richmond Fire Department also responded to a fire at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rhoads Hall in the 700 block of West Franklin Street, with both fires under control by 1:30 a.m.
“The protests over the past few days on and near VCU’s Monroe Park Campus have resulted in damage to our shared community, including broken windows and doors, graffiti, damaged vehicles and debris fires,” university President Michael Rao said Sunday. “I am grateful to our many employees who have responded quickly to make repairs and keep everyone on our campus safe to live, learn and heal.”
“We will work together to fix what’s broken here. We must fix what has been broken in our communities across this nation for decades.”
Protesters sprayed graffiti over buildings all across downtown, leaving crews of professionals and volunteers to clean up.
“There’s a right way to protest, and this isn’t it,” said
Eric Wingo of Amelia County, who cleaned graffiti on Grace Street outside the U.S. District Courthouse.
A Richmond police spokesman said he did not know how many buildings were damaged and how much overall property damage protesters caused.
City police reported Sunday morning that one person suffered life-threatening injuries when he was shot while riding in a car that came into contact with protesters in downtown Richmond early Sunday. Police were called to a hospital shortly after 1 a.m. after receiving a report that the victim, an adult male, had arrived with a gunshot wound.
Reports indicate that the vehicle he was riding in passed by a group of protesters around 12:30 a.m. in the 2000 block of West Grace Street, police said.
Investigators say the gunshots came from behind the vehicle. Police do not yet have a description of the suspect in the shooting.
GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace said the bus that was set ablaze overnight Friday cost
Protesters marched through downtown Richmond on Sunday. Demonstrations against the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis while in police custody and against police brutality stretched across Virginia and the rest of the country over the weekend.
A burned-out car sat across from the former Comfort restaurant along West Broad Street on Sunday after an overnight disturbance.
In announcing that the National Guard was on alert, Gov. Ralph Northam said: “They stand ready to assist in protecting our residents, businesses, especially small and black-owned businesses, and the capital city.”