Police sweep Richmond streets on third night of protests

By: - June 1, 2020 12:36 am

A cloud of tear gas wafts behind protesters last month as they defied an 8 p.m. curfew ordered by Gov. Ralph Northam. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The third night of protests in Richmond brought arrests, armored vehicles and more tear gas to city streets. From east to west on Broad Street, protesters ran from police enforcing an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by Gov. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

By 9:45 p.m., the Richmond Police Department tweeted that “a large group of protesters are in violation of tonight’s curfew in Richmond. Arrests have begun. Approximately two dozen people are in custody.” Less than an hour later, the department tweeted that “additional arrests have been made.” 

Police in riot gear arrested protesters downtown on Leigh Street, where more than 10 people sat on the sidewalk with their hands zip-tied behind their backs. Several on the ground demanded that police read their rights. Curfew violations are punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Police arrested protesters along East Leigh between 9th and 10th streets Sunday night in Downtown Richmond. (Cat Modlin-Jackson / For the Virginia Mercury)

It was a stepped-up response after two nights of violence, vandalism, fires and looting that overshadowed other more peaceful demonstrations in the city in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. At a news conference Sunday, Stoney had said the curfew would be enforced, calling the destruction the work of bad actors “hijacking the cause.”

A combined police presence — including Virginia state troopers and Richmond city officers — worked to push protesters from the city’s main roads.

In Jackson Ward, one of Richmond’s oldest and most historic black neighborhoods, a group of officers arrested at least three protesters walking on Broad Street, one of the city’s main arteries. A block away, close to two dozen officers in riot gear formed a line to push onlookers off the road.

One protester threw a water bottle at the officers as they approached, and police responded with a round of tear gas pellets — scattering demonstrators deeper into the neighborhood

One local reporter said he was pepper-sprayed and pushed down Sunday night by police despite identifying himself as a journalist.

By 10:15 p.m. chaos broke out near Allen and Broad streets, just around the corner from the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, home to the city’s controversial statues of Confederate leaders, that was covered with graffiti the night before. Tear gas canisters were hurled over a block-long crowd of protesters fleeing east from the fumes. 

Protesters march in downtown in Richmond Sunday night in defiance of an 8 p.m. curfew ordered by Gov. Ralph Northam. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Around the same time, a group of roughly 100 protesters accompanied by a small band of vehicles marched into the Fan neighborhood and headed west on Monument. Chanting “no justice, no peace,” and George Floyd’s name, the group paused at intervals, seeming uncertain of where to go, before turning around at the Maury monument and moving east again. A block from the Jefferson Davis monument, police caught up with the group, which became splintered after police deployed tear gas.

At many homes and apartment buildings along Monument, residents responded to the crowd and the honking of car horns with “black lives matter” signs and shouts of support.

State officials announced Sunday night that Capitol Square will remain closed “until further notice” after damage to multiple surrounding buildings and injuries to two Capitol Police officers on Saturday.

Police fortified the Capitol on Sunday after protesters easily ripped down a temporary fence erected to block the entrance Saturday. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

“We have a responsibility as stewards of the historic Capitol Square grounds to protect them from depredations and injury,” said Joe Damico, director of the state’s Department of General Services. “Until we can be assured that these buildings and grounds, as well as the people who visit or work among them, can be secure from outside threats, it is prudent to keep Capitol Square closed to the public.”

Mercury reporters Sarah Vogelsong and Kate Masters contributed to this story.


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Cat Modlin-Jackson
Cat Modlin-Jackson

Cat Modlin-Jackson is a freelance journalist and radio reporter based in Richmond. Though originally from Virginia, she's also lived in Tampa, Fla. and Houston, where she covered politics for local publications. Contact her at [email protected]