Protests ex­pand into sub­urbs

Demon­stra­tors gather in Hen­rico, Ash­land and Ch­ester­field

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY JUSTIN MATTINGLY, ALI SUL­LI­VAN, C. SUAREZ ROJAS, MARK BOWES AND JESS NOCERA

As Richmond marked its sixth day of demon­stra­tions against police bru­tal­ity that has roiled the na­tion, protests ex­panded into the city’s sub­urbs on Wed­nes­day with marches, chants and prayers.

The names of Ah­maud Ar­bery, Bre­onna Tay­lor and Ge­orge Floyd rang out on

Iron Bridge Road in Ch­ester­field County. Pro­test­ers from the Short Pump area shouted “Black Lives Mat­ter” as they wound their way into the city lim­its. In Ash­land, roughly 200 peo­ple knelt for 8 min­utes and 46 se­conds, the length of time Min­neapo­lis police of­fi­cer Derek Chau­vin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck nine days ear­lier.

Demon­stra­tors, many of whom were white, pointed to the slay­ing of Ar­bery in Fe­bru­ary while he was out jog­ging

and Floyd’s and Tay­lor’s deaths at the hands of police as proof that sys­tems in place that dis­ad­van­tage peo­ple of color should be re­formed. Police lead­ers en­gaged with pro­test­ers across the re­gion, con­demn­ing the re­cent slay­ings and pledg­ing to en­gage in in­tro­spec­tion about their own prac­tices and poli­cies.

The hope of change brought Lewis Yancey to a muggy park­ing lot near GNC in Wil­low Lawn, where he was sup­port­ing his daugh­ter, Shan­non Yancey, a 2019 Mills God­win High School grad­u­ate.

They had made a sign that read “Black Lives Mat­ter” and ini­tially showed up to Short Pump Town Cen­ter, where protest or­ga­niz­ers planned to be­gin a march. A change of plans led to a shorter rally, but that didn’t stop the fa­ther and daugh­ter.

Shan­non Yancey had al­ready protested Floyd’s killing once this week.

“They’re stand­ing up for the right thing,” her fa­ther said.

As the af­ter­noon wore on, the crowd, which at first largely con­sisted of stu­dents from God­win and Short Pump area res­i­dents, grew to more than 100 peo­ple. Chant­ing “I Can’t Breathe,” they made their way to the Robert E. Lee mon­u­ment, the epi­cen­ter of the city’s ac­tivism since Floyd’s death.

To keep cool on what was the hottest day so far this year, marchers stopped for water breaks through­out the 3.1-mile walk — roughly a fifth of what it would have been had they walked from Short Pump.

Un­marked police ve­hi­cles fol­lowed pro­test­ers along Broad Street, but of­fi­cers did not exit their cars. In the early stages of the de­par­ture from Wil­low

Lawn, sev­eral Richmond police of­fi­cers raised their fists in sol­i­dar­ity.

Driv­ers honked car horns and work­ers along Broad Street came out of build­ings to clap and show their sup­port as the line passed. They ar­rived just be­fore 2:30 p.m. to ap­plause at the Lee mon­u­ment, where nearly 1,000 pro­test­ers al­ready had gath­ered.

Around 4 p.m., pro­test­ers in Ash­land who fell silent to com­mem­o­rate Floyd marched a half-mile from the town hall to the police sta­tion, es­corted by town police and clergy.

At the police sta­tion, the demon­stra­tors chanted, “Th­ese Racists Have Got to Go,” “No Jus­tice, No Peace,” and “We’re All God’s Chil­dren.”

Sev­eral of the event’s or­ga­niz­ers and a clergy mem­ber said they wanted the Hanover County area to show sol­i­dar­ity with Richmond.

“I be­lieve this town has some shel­tered­ness to it be­cause we’re se­cluded from the city,” said the Rev. Ran­dell Wil­liams, pas­tor of Shiloh Bap­tist Church in Ash­land. “The de­sire is to help us be­come a so­ci­ety where we are all equal.”

Sa­man­tha Whit­lock, a 20-year-old grad­u­ate of Pa­trick Henry High School who lives in Me­chan­icsville, or­ga­nized the march, say­ing she said she wanted Ash­land and Hanover res­i­dents to have an out­let.

“Peo­ple here wanted to par­tic­i­pate in the same kind of things they’re see­ing in Richmond with­out hav­ing to go into the city and po­ten­tially risk get­ting hurt,” Whit­lock said.

Some of the peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated in the march thanked Police Chief Doug Good­man for par­tic­i­pat­ing, pre­sent­ing him flow­ers and a hand­made sign. Good­man told the group he un­der­stands why the protests are hap­pen­ing.

“What hap­pened to Mr. Ge­orge Floyd is not right,” he said. “In 27 years of polic­ing I’ve never been trained to put my knee on some­one’s neck.”

He added: “What I want you to know … we will con­tinue to work on all th­ese is­sues that are be­ing brought up.”

In Ch­ester­field, min­utes be­fore pro­test­ers be­gan a 6 p.m. march to the county court­house, Police Chief Jef­frey Katz con­demned the ac­tions that led to Floyd’s death and said he un­der­stands the out­rage and fear that peo­ple across the coun­try felt while watch­ing the video of

Floyd in dis­tress and dy­ing.

“I don’t know a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer that

I have spoke with who has any­thing but com­plete con­tempt for the video that we saw,” said Katz, who was joined by Ch­ester­field Sher­iff Karl Leonard.

Con­se­quently, “we need to make sure that we’re do­ing every­thing we can to make peo­ple feel safe, and rec­og­nize that some folks don’t see us as the solution,” the chief said.

“If we’re not serv­ing ev­ery­one in this com­mu­nity, we’re fail­ing in our mis­sion,” Katz added. “Our job is to help peo­ple feel safe from their fears, and if we’re part of that, we have to own it.”

Katz in­vited any­one from the com­mu­nity who feels like they haven’t been heard, or don’t feel com­fort­able when they see uni­formed of­fi­cers, to reach out “so we can sit down and have a hard con­ver­sa­tion ... and lis­ten to one an­other.”

Un­for­tu­nately, Katz said, the no­tion of equal jus­tice that march or­ga­niz­ers were pro­mot­ing — and his de­part­ment “ab­so­lutely” en­dorses — has been “hi­jacked by an­ar­chists in many ar­eas of the coun­try. “And I want to make sure we are re­fo­cus­ing on the im­por­tant mes­sage of equal jus­tice.”

Leonard said, “Peo­ple are frus­trated and right­fully so,” and that the march “is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of us­ing that frus­tra­tion to be seen, to be heard, to be un­der­stood.”

“As im­por­tant as it is to learn from this, it is more im­por­tant that we change from this,” he said.

Hun­dreds of demon­stra­tors marched un­der the hot sun down Iron Bridge Road chant­ing “I Can’t Breathe,” “Black Lives Mat­ter,” and “No Jus­tice, No Peace” as Ch­ester­field police of­fi­cers slowly drove along­side them. Cars driv­ing by honked in sup­port.

Vanessa Adams, a Ch­ester res­i­dent and re­tired fed­eral prison war­den, said she had to march.

“I care about jus­tice. I care about peace. I care that my grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren when they hear about this, they know that their grand­mother walked,” she said. “If we don’t have jus­tice for all, we don’t have it for none.”

Gath­ered in front of the Ch­ester­field court­house, the crowd erupted in Bill Wither’s “Lean On Me.”

“Some peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what it’s like to be black, even in Ch­ester­field,” Shedrick McCall, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor at Vir­ginia State Univer­sity who helped or­ga­nized the march, told the crowd.

“It’s not our racial dif­fer­ences that di­vide us, it’s our in­abil­ity to rec­og­nize that our dif­fer­ences can unite us and make us stronger peo­ple in Ch­ester­field County.”

As the clos­ing prayer be­gan, the Rev. Mar­cus Leggett called for three law en­force­ment of­fi­cers from the crowd to form a cir­cle around his 17-year-old son, Joshua.

Two black men and a white woman emerged, joined hands and bowed their heads as Leggett prayed. His son held his hand in a fist above his head as his fa­ther spoke.

“We will not be seg­re­gated any­more,” said Leggett, a pas­tor at Shiloh Bap­tist Church and Mount Pleas­ant Church in Ch­ester­field.

Joshua Leggett, an in­com­ing se­nior at Thomas Dale High, said af­ter­ward that a feel­ing of grat­i­tude came over him.

“Be­ing a black man in Amer­ica, it’s hard to see the police as a force on your side. Hav­ing them around me is them do­ing what they’re sup­posed to do, to pro­tect and serve.”

BOB BROWN/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Pro­test­ers marched Wed­nes­day from Wil­low Lawn in Hen­rico County to Mon­u­ment Av­enue for a rally. The group had orig­i­nally planned to walk from Short Pump Town Cen­ter.

DANIEL SANGJIB MIN/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Ash­land Deputy Police Chief Anthony Cal­la­han (from left) and Police Chief Doug Good­man kneeled dur­ing a mo­ment of si­lence Wed­nes­day at Ash­land Town Hall.

JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Demon­stra­tors made their way down Iron Bridge Road in Ch­ester­field County on Wed­nes­day en route to the Ch­ester­field County court­house.

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