Protesters in Richmond and Hampton Roads blocked highways and started fires Friday night as unrest that has gripped the country following the death of George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minnesota spread to Virginia.
In Richmond, at least one car, a Dumpster and a GRTC Pulse bus were set afire. Protests continued in pockets of the city long after the first demonstration had dispersed. By 1 a.m., officers in full riot gear were guarding Richmond police headquarters on W. Grace Street, which protesters had surrounded hours earlier.
Blocks away, officers used pepper spray to move demonstrators off the street near the intersection of Monroe and Broad, where a GRTC Pulse bus had been set on fire. “You want to die, bro?” one officer yelled at a demonstrator as the blaze grew larger. “Back up.” Some of the protesters began to chant “Black lives matter” as the bus — powered by natural gas — went up in a jet of flames.
Gunshots were fired in the air by protesters, police said, though there were no known injuries, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Capitol Square remained closed today. “A window was broken in the Barbara Johns Building, which houses the Office of the Attorney General, and the Virginia Capitol Visitor’s Entrance, Virginia Supreme Court Building and Washington Building were vandalized as crowds surrounded Capitol Square,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
In Hampton Roads, demonstrators temporarily shut down the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, The Virginian-Pilot Reported.
”All lives won’t matter until black lives matter,” one demonstrator told the paper.
This morning in Richmond, several shops along Broad Street were cleaning up broken glass and crews were working to haul away the burned out GRTC bus.
Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck in a video captured by a bystanders, was arrested Friday on murder and manslaughter charges.
In a statement Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam said it had been “such a sad and emotional week, with too many violent and blatant reminders of how far our country is from genuine equity and fair treatment.
“George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others have been wrongfully killed, simply for being black. People all over our country are hurting and angry, and rightly so,” Northam said. “People are crying out for justice and healing. But those aren’t feelings—they’re actions, and we have a lot of work to do in this country and in our commonwealth.”
Mercury reporter Ned Oliver contributed to this story.