Day 19

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAB­RINA MORENO AND JESS NO­CERA Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch smoreno@times­dis­patch.com (804) 649-6103 Twit­ter: @sabri­naamorenoo jno­cera@times­dis­patch.com (804) 649-6023

Protesters march through For­est Hill on South Side.

Crys­tal Jones clutched her chest tightly on her porch Wed­nes­day evening, hold­ing back tears as she watched protesters stream by her Dun­ston Manor apart­ment in South Side.

“Fi­nally,” she said. “Every­body’s fi­nally see­ing what a lot of black peo­ple have been see­ing for years.”

Ac­tivists took over For­est Hill on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon in smaller clus­ters than in nights past, but the crowd re­mained hearty enough to draw res­i­dents to their doorsteps to watch.

As they en­tered the 19th day of ac­tion fol­low­ing the Min­neapo­lis po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd, protesters counted their vic­to­ries: the fir­ing of Rich­mond’s chief of po­lice, Wil­liam Smith; the charg­ing of an Atlanta po­lice of­fi­cer in 27-yearold Rayshard Brooks’ mur­der; of the re­lent­less protests Floyd’s death prompted against sys­temic racism that’s long per­vaded Amer­i­can life.

They’re not giv­ing up un­til they see sweep­ing change.

“They’re killing peo­ple,” one or­ga­nizer said, as rain poured onto his jacket. “I can take a lit­tle wa­ter.”

The on­set of driz­zle coated the block-party at­mos­phere or­ga­niz­ers set up, but the nearly 60 peo­ple trick­ling in off For­est Hill Av­enue were un­fazed. They passed out wa­ter and snacks while check­ing in on one an­other.They hunched over pic­nic ta­bles to scrib­ble last-minute signs.

“End white si­lence,” said one sign.

“Hous­ing is a hu­man right,” said an­other.

The group gath­ered at For­est Hill Park in­ten­tion­ally, to re­mind peo­ple who once owned the land: Wil­liam Byrd III. Byrd, who owned and sold slaves, sold 1,730 acres —in­clud­ing the 105 that is For­est Hill Park to­day — in 1768.

The area re­mains a pre­dom­i­nantly white neigh­bor­hood, with pock­ets of black com­mu­ni­ties strewn through­out.

“No­body talks about what hap­pened on the same ground we are now here on,” an or­ga­nizer said, adding it was time to wake up the neigh­bor­hood.

Weav­ing through the marchers, video cam­era in hand, Maria Warith-Wade was doc­u­ment­ing his­tory.

A film stu­dent at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Warith-Wade boarded a plane three days ago to come home and film a doc­u­men­tary in Rich­mond on redlin­ing, a form of hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion that has pushed black com­mu­ni­ties out.

“Redlin­ing still plagues Rich­mond [and has] for decades now,” said Warith-Wade, who’s been out ev­ery night since and plans to at­tend all protests through the re­main­der of the month. “Redlin­ing plagues our school sys­tems, food ac­cess [and] pub­lic hous­ing.

A prod­uct of Hen­rico County Pub­lic Schools, Warith-Wade, 26, spent the first 15 years of her life in the area. She re­called fund­ing of Hen­rico’s school sys­tem, not­ing that re­sources var­ied greatly be­tween the county’s east and west ends.

Rather than fo­cus­ing on Los An­ge­les or an­other

Cal­i­for­nia city, WarithWade trav­eled across the coun­try be­cause “Rich­mond is home [and] black peo­ple will con­tinue to be pushed out of Rich­mond.”

De­fund­ing the Rich­mond Po­lice De­part­ment is the first step var­i­ous or­ga­niz­ers say is needed to over­haul a po­lice sys­tem that dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pacts black peo­ple, and one al­ready taken in cities such as Los An­ge­les. The Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil an­nounced June 7 its in­tent to dis­man­tle the city’s po­lice de­part­ment and re­al­lo­cate those po­lice funds into schools, hous­ing and men­tal health pro­grams in black com­mu­ni­ties.

Gov. Ralph Northam told re­porters on Thurs­day that he doesn’t sup­port ei­ther of those op­tions and of­fered other po­lice re­forms, such as body-worn cam­eras.

But af­ter tense stand­offs in re­cent days that have seen Rich­mond po­lice ar­rest a black youth or­ga­nizer on felony charges, fire tear gas, flash bombs and pep­per spray into a crowd of protesters, protesters say po­lice al­ter­na­tives are long over­due.

Sue Ze­chini, who has lived in the area since

1985, agreed. She lived through the up­ris­ings that oc­curred af­ter the beat­ing of Rod­ney King at the hands of po­lice in 1991 and the killing of Latasha Har­lins by a shop owner the same year. This ou­trage isn’t new, and it’s a con­ver­sa­tion she’s glad peo­ple are hav­ing.

As the crowd, which re­mained a steady 60 peo­ple through­out the march, looped back to For­est Hill Park, Ze­chini cheered.

“We’re so happy,” she said. “We’re all sup­port­ers of jus­tice … There’s a lot of sup­port in this neigh­bor­hood for the move­ment. I want it to keep go­ing.”

ALEXA WELCH ED­LUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Ac­tivists gath­ered in For­est Hill Park on Wed­nes­day as protests call­ing for racial equal­ity con­tin­ued.

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