Hannah Eason, Managing Editor
Zachary Klosko, Contributing Writer
Andrew Ringle, Executive Editor
A fourth night of protests in Richmond sparked by the death of a black man in police custody ended around midnight with a call from demonstrators to attend Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s town hall on Tuesday.
Protesters walked down Monument Avenue, Cary Street and Broad Street for hours after a citywide curfew went into effect at 8 p.m., accompanied by drivers who blew their horns and played music through speakers.
Organizers of the protest ended the route at the base of the Robert E. Lee statue and commended the crowd for staying peaceful on Monday. Then, encircled by idling cars and surrounded by hundreds of marchers, the group held a moment of silence for those who have been killed by police.
The crowd dispersed around 12:30 a.m., ending the night early in comparison to the previous three days of protest in the city. Demonstrations over the weekend lasted into the early morning hours and left a trail of destruction in downtown Richmond.
Richmond police officers who used tear gas Monday on protesters near the Robert E. Lee memorial 30 minutes before curfew were removed from the field, according to a tweet from Richmond Police.
Chief Smith just reviewed video of gas being deployed by RPD officers near the Lee Monument and apologizes for this unwarranted action. These officers have been pulled from the field. They will be disciplined because their actions were outside dept protocols and directions given.
— Richmond Police (@RichmondPolice) June 2, 2020
The tweet stated that officers will be disciplined because their actions were outside of department protocols and directions given. Richmond Police Chief Will Smith apologized for the “unwarranted” action.
At least one protester occupying the Lee memorial attempted to pull the statue down with rope, when blue lights and sirens appeared. White protesters stood and knelt in front of the black protesters before police shot tear gas canisters, which caused the crowd to scatter.
A group of about 400 protesters moved west on Monument Avenue and chanted “black lives matter,” and “no justice, no peace.”
Monday was the fourth day of protests in Richmond in honor of George Floyd, a black man that died in police custody in Minneapolis. Nationwide protests have sparked in response to Floyd’s death, which was caught on video.
Around 8 p.m., the Richmond Police tweeted an apology for gassing the Lee monument protesters, stating that officers in the area were “blocked off by violent protestors.”
To our peaceful protestors: We are sorry we had to deploy gas near the Lee Monument. Some RPD officers in that area were cut off by violent protestors. The gas was necessary to get them to safety.
— Richmond Police (@RichmondPolice) June 2, 2020
This message was refuted by multiple protesters. At least 10 people posted videos on Twitter depicting the gas being deployed on the crowd at approximately 7:30 p.m., thirty minutes before curfew.
Virginia Public Media posted a video to their Twitter account showing police officers deploying tear gas on peaceful protestors. The video is timestamped 7:56 p.m., four minutes before the curfew imposed by Gov. Northam began.
— VPM (@myVPM) June 1, 2020
After dispersing, the crowd moved west on Monument Avenue, down Arthur Ashe Boulevard and into Carytown.
A video was posted to social media of a police officer spitting on a man that was being detained near Monument Avenue. The detainee appeared to be white, in his 20s and was wearing a black t-shirt.
“We saw this detainee on the ground and there were a bunch of cops behind him spitting for a long time,” said an eyewitness who shared the video with The Commonwealth Times. They asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
The eyewitness said police used force near the Robert E. Lee memorial “with no warning.”
“These police pulled up out of nowhere and surrounded the monument,” the eyewitness said. “There were tanks as well, there was a lot of police there and no one could move forward.”
Gov. Ralph Northam issued a citywide curfew, which went into effect at 8 p.m. on Sunday, at Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s request. Protesters continued to march through the streets on Sunday night in downtown Richmond and near Monroe Park after curfew.
Stoney will be holding a press conference tomorrow at noon at City Hall. He posted a message to his Twitter account, saying he would like to apologize to the protesters in person.
To the peaceful protesters who were gassed tonight, please come. I want to apologize in person. pic.twitter.com/EwKW4TFmAc
— Levar M. Stoney (@LevarStoney) June 2, 2020
A protester, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said they didn’t appreciate Stoney’s response to the tear gas being deployed.
“It feels like it’s a little too late,” the protester said. “I’m glad he’s willing to talk, but it almost feels like it’s a little too late.”
News Editor Eduardo Acevedo contributed to this report.
This article was updated at 2:18 a.m on Tuesday to reflect the conclusion of Monday night’s protest.