Eduardo Acevedo, News Editor
A statue of Confederate General Williams Carter Wickham was dismantled during a protest on Saturday night in Monroe Park. The statue was pulled off of its pedestal around 10:45 p.m.
Protests began in Monroe Park at 7 p.m. on Saturday with pots, pans and wooden spoons implemented as noise makers as they marched to the John Marshall Courts building on 9th Street. On the building’s courtyard, the kitchenware was used to make music as people danced and cheered.
David Briscoe has been protesting since Wednesday, and he said he saw police and the National Guard putting the Wickham statue into a box after it toppled.
“I’m hoping that they’re not gonna try to put this statue back up for the simple fact that we’re fighting to take these statues down,” Briscoe said. “The fact that it came down is the goal.”
Briscoe wants to see the removal of more statues honoring Confederate leaders in Richmond, whether it’s by city contractors or demonstrators.
“Who wants to keep being reminded of where we’ve come from?” Briscoe said. “If we fought battles and we won a war, a civil war, against this army that was fighting in opposition, then why are their monuments still here?”
After the statue was de-erected, protesters marched to the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, where VCU senior Collin Sandler said he found water bottles that smelled like chemicals and bleach.
The financial technology major poured out the water bottles on the grass near the statue to determine if they contained a toxic substance. He planned to return on Sunday to see if the grass has died.
“It seems like it’s really hard for people to tell if the water’s been contaminated or not,” Sandler said. “But it’s really sad because we’re all just out here peaceful protesting, and the people who look like they’re trying to help might not be on our side.”
At the John Marshall Courts building, speakers discussed a need for funding to train police officers on proper responses to mental health crises. Others said police should be defunded instead.
“Amplify black voices,” another speaker said.
VCU political science major Dorean Seaborn said she supports Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s commitment to implementing a citizen’s review board that would oversee law enforcement.
“We can’t completely, like, defund the police, but we do have to figure out better ways,” Seaborn said. “Don’t get a person in who’s a white supremacist. … We gotta have a person who actually cares about the community.”
Seaborn said she also supports Stoney’s decision to implement the “Marcus Alert,” which would require police to bring in Richmond Behavioral Health Authority when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. The alert was named after VCU alumnus Marcus David Peters, who was killed in 2018 by a Richmond police officer while experiencing a mental health crisis.
Dancing and cheering have spontaneously begun in the John Marshall Courts building’s courtyard. pic.twitter.com/Y7yHwfuQaK
— Eduardo Acevedo (@edace2936) June 7, 2020
Ryan, a protester who preferred not to disclose his last name, said police shouldn’t be involved in cases of people experiencing mental health crises. He said in an instance where he experienced a mental episode and the police were involved, they made him feel uncomfortable.
“Someone with a gun isn’t gonna make you feel comfortable,” the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College student said. “I want someone who can talk with me.”
The business major said he wanted police funding to be reallocated toward social work, transportation and education. Ryan said he has attended most of the Richmond protests held so far and was there Saturday to serve as a “shield” for black protesters.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re a guest here, and it is our job to use our white privilege,” Ryan said. “It’s not to over-speak, it’s not to co-op, it’s to be here to protect black people and to use our privilege to speak out against what’s going on in this country.”
Demonstrator Divine Unique joined Richmond protests for the first time on Saturday and said the unity of the protesters made her emotional.
“It takes longer to train to be a cosmetologist than it does to be a cop, and that says something,” Unique said. “Something’s wrong there.”
Managing Editor Hannah Eason and Executive Editor Andrew Ringle contributed to this report.
This article was updated to include quotes from demonstrators.