Protests over George Floyd’s death spread to Virginia

By: and - May 30, 2020 10:20 am

A GRTC bus burns in Downtown Richmond in May during protests against police brutality that turned destructive. (Kate Masters/ Virginia Mercury)

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.

A Richmond police officer surveys damage outside the department’s headquarters, where protesters broke windows and lit a car on fire. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

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.

Protesters face off against police near Capitol Square in Richmond. (Kate Masters / Virginia Mercury)

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.

Workers towed the remains of a city bus lit on fire in downtown Richmond during a protest in response to the death of George Floyd. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

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.


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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers and was previously editor of the Virginia Mercury. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected]

Kate Masters
Kate Masters

Kate grew up in Northern Virginia before moving to the Midwest, earning her degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent a year covering gun violence and public health for The Trace in Boston before joining The Frederick News-Post in Frederick County, Md. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md. She was named Virginia's outstanding young journalist for 2021 by the Virginia Press Association.