Zachary Klosko, Contributing Writer
A Black Lives Matter protest for the death of George Floyd in downtown Richmond became violent Friday evening as protesters shattered windows and set fire to a police car and a GRTC bus.
“At this point, I don’t think there’s any other response,” said protester Aaliyah Kilpatrick as she watched the bright orange flames coming from the police car. “You’ve got to fight violence with violence.”
Police have administered tear gas canisters and sprayed mace at protesters, and several people have broken down the glass door of the 7-Eleven on West Grace and Hamilton Streets. Windows of RamTech have been broken on Monroe Park campus.
The protest began in Monroe Park at 8:30 p.m. Protesters arrived solemnly with signs saying “Justice by any means necessary” and “Disarm the police.” After a few moments of quiet, a chant broke out.
As protesters moved through the streets of downtown Richmond, they chanted “no justice, no peace, fuck the police.” Around 200 protesters stopped in front of the Richmond Court of Appeals and knelt down with their hands behind their heads to symbolize a group arrest.
“Hands up, don’t shoot,” they chanted.
Protests and riots have broken out across the country in response to Floyd’s death, which was caught on video. In the video, a white officer can be seen holding his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd.
Police were present throughout the protest to divert traffic and protect the protesters, some of whom raised middle fingers and shouted at the officers. Both public and private property were vandalized with “fuck all cops” and “BLM.”
A protester broke the glass front door of the Wells Fargo at West Grace and 2nd streets. Other protesters broke multiple windows at the downtown Richmond Police Station on Grace Street. Some threw rocks through the window of a police car parked out front before a group of protesters proceeded to set the car on fire.
Despite the night’s intensity, protester Aliah Cherry calmly watched as the red-hot flames engulfed the police car.
“We’re sick and tired,” Cherry said.
Earlier in the night, one protester blocked the path of a police car despite being told by officers that they could be placed under arrest. The protester, who asked to not be named in fear of retaliation, said they felt they would be treated better by law enforcement than their family members because of their fair skin.
“I thought it was my duty to stand in between them and the protesters,” the protester said.
Richmond resident Kristen Brown didn’t participate in the protest but watched as the group passed her apartment complex. Brown supported the protest and said change needs to happen in law enforcement.
“There needs to be training,” Brown said. “We need to see action across the racial spectrum.”
Richmond local Christopher Evans heard about Floyd’s death and joined the protest by accident as he was walking. Evans said he agreed that a change needed to be made but still had concerns about the protest at large. He said he wasn’t approached or spoken to by fellow protesters.
“People who look just like me are protesting but they aren’t making me feel comfortable,” Evans said. “I’m still a black dude in a group full of white people.”
News Editor Eduardo Acevedo contributed to this report.