More than 1,000 anti-Trump protestors shut down highway, eight VCU students arrested

UPDATED: 3 p.m.

More than 1,000 anti-Trump protesters marched through Richmond and shut down portions of W. Broad St., the downtown area and the Interstate 95 and 64-W on Wednesday night. Virginia State Police arrested 10 protesters and Richmond Police arrested two more during the course of the evening.

According to VCU PD spokesperson Corey Byers, six of the 10 arrested by State Police are currently VCU students: Mackenzie Werner, 21; Michael Stough Jr., 20; Madeline McElgunn, 19; Joseph Forcier, 20; Briana Collazo, 26 and Sofia Bugge, 23.

State Police also arrested Sawyer Camden, 25, who Byers said was a former VCU student, as well as three more individuals who do not attend the university: Madeline Lewis, 20; Trevor Clarkson 20 and Gregory Robinson, 22. All 10 are Richmond residents. Additionally, RPD arrested VCU students Haley Reynolds, 22, and Tion Edmonds, 18.

Byers said Richmond Police took the lead on handling last night’s protest throughout the city.

The group of protesters first gathered in Monroe Park at 9 p.m. after an image declaring “NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA” and advertised the meetup was shared widely on social media.

This proved to be one of the most popular chants of the night, along with “Fuck Trump,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Trans Lives Matter,” “VCU don’t fuck with you,” “Muslim Lives Matter” and “Refugee Lives Matter,” among others like “Pussy grabs back.”

A protester who only identified as “Tyler” said he and a group of anonymous friends created the viral image for the event, but left the direction of the event largely up to the protestors.

“It’s not about control,” Tyler said. “It’s about the people.”

The group of protesters in Monroe Park eventually spilled onto Broad St. and wound through the arts district and downtown. The VCU and Richmond Police eventually blocked off and redirected the group back toward campus.

But the protesters continued growing in numbers, and seemingly reacted in a way law enforcement was not prepared for when the group took an unexpected right on N. Belvidere St. and marched onto I-64 W, effectively stopping traffic on the highway.

The crowd emerged from the highway on the backside of Jackson Ward and stopped at VCU’s Cabell Library, gaining more chanting bodies before marching through Oregon Hill and taking an exit onto I-95.

Photo by Erin Edgerton
Photo by Erin Edgerton

Here, police were prepared on both sides of the highway. Most protesters hung back, while a bold few stepped up to challenge police.

“Department officers responded to the south side of the roadway and State Police responded to the north side,” said Richmond Police Chief Al Durham in a Nov. 10 email statement to the media. “Officers dispersed the crowd and made two arrests.”

Durham said at approximately 11:40 p.m. last night a large group of individuals walked down the Second Avenue off-ramps on both sides of the Downtown Expressway, walked across the travel lanes and sat down, blocking the roadway.

Meanwhile, dozens of police stood by with canisters of pepper spray, and the majority of protesters returned to the exit ramp. Police advanced and pepper sprayed the crowd, but dozens of protesters not on the highway were also injured due to the wind.

RPD spokesperson Koury Wilson said she could not confirm whether non-lethal weapons, including pepper spray, were used last night.

Haley Reynolds, 22, of the 1000 block of West Franklin Street, and Tion Edmonds, 18, of the 1180 block of Buchanan Court in Fredericksburg were arrested by RPD officers. Durham said both were charged with unlawful assembly and pedestrian in the roadway, were given summonses and released at the scene.

The roadway reopened at approximately 12:15 a.m. Thursday, according to Durham’s statement.

Photo by Julie Tripp
Photo by Julie Tripp

Meanwhile, protesters fled from police back up the exit ramp, and made their way in small clumps towards Monument Ave., growing along the way as students and nearby residents joined.

With phones illuminated and pointed outward protesters pooled at the foot of the Robert E. Lee monument, scaling its foundation and chanting “Fuck Trump! Fuck Trump! Fuck Trump!”

More protesters arrived by the minute, attracted by word-of-mouth and details provided by the hashtag #FUCKTRUMP, which was trending on Twitter.

After a moment of silence for refugees who passed away while seeking asylum, Americans murdered by police and protestors arrested and injured earlier in the night, the march made its way down Broad St. towards the state capitol and splintered into the arts district, downtown and VCU’s campus.

Police officers stationed along the route to the state capitol were equipped with gas masks and canine units. More than a dozen police cars trailed the mass of protesters on their way to and from the capitol.

Photo by Erin Edgerton.
Photo by Erin Edgerton

According to VCU student Caitlin Ellmore, police threatened protesters saying they should “stop before we make America great again.”

The protest stopped at Broad and Laurel Streets, but Ellmore said police cars following behind the group continued to advance.

“One of the police cars tried to run through me,” Ellmore said. “I was yelling at him to stop. He was looking us dead in the eyes and kept running into me.”

Ellmore said police then accused her and her boyfriend, Mike DeBolt, of jumping onto the hood of the police cars.

“It was at the point the bumper was bending his leg. The cop yelled at him to get off the hood of the car,” said Ace Sarich, a witness of the incident. “He did. I could literally see him not touching the car. A five to six inch gap.”

According to Sarich, police continued to accuse DeBolt of touching the car, and he was subsequently arrested.

“Even though people all around were trying to tell the police (he wasn’t touching the car),” Sarich said. “Many people saw it. We were all telling them.”

Richmond was one of 13 major U.S. cities protesting as a direct result of Trump’s victory on Nov. 8 and Hillary Clinton’s concession Wednesday afternoon.

Scott Barlow, School Board representative-elect for VCU’s district, was observing the protesters on Broad Street around midnight. Barlow said he finds it inspiring to see young people passionate about getting involved.

“I was really blown away yesterday. I spent most of the day at a precinct at VCU and saw hundreds of people wrapped around the block to vote,” Barlow said. “So I understand where a lot of this frustration is coming from.”

Barlow said he’s also concerned about a Trump presidency, and hasn’t heard much regarding his education platform.

“I do think that if we look at how he has asserted himself throughout the campaign, he hasn’t set a good example for our country,” Barlow said. “I think we’ve seen a lot of bigotry and a lot of his supporters who are frustrated about the status quo and are channeling that in the wrong direction.”

Barlow said he was inspired by protests surrounding the Occupy movement while he was in law school.

“I learned that if we really want to effect change we need to get involved in the political process,” Barlow said. “So I hope to see that a lot of these young folks are channeling that energy into the political process and finding ways to get involved especially locally where we can make an important impact.”

In an email after the protest had quelled, Barlow emphasized he had only just become aware of vandalism on Monument Ave., and he does not condone that kind of behavior. Barlow said he was only aware of peaceful protesting at the Lee monument and march down Broad street earlier in the evening.


Reporting by: Fadel Allassan, Jesse Adcock, Maura Mazurowski and Sarah King

2 Comments

  1. So how about when the protesters wrote “YOUR VOTE IS A HATE CRIME” on the monuments. I’m glad they at least admit they believe anyone with a different worldview deserves to be prosecuted.

    This is why a freak like Trump won. If you smugly tell people long enough that they’re a racist nazi if they don’t match enough with your social justice criteria, they’re going to get tired of walking on eggshells on campus and in the workplace, and vote for whoever promises the biggest middle finger to your position.

    • Yes, because that’s how the American people should vote – vindictively and with nothing but self-centered threats in mind. Inspiring.

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