Tear gas, pepper spray deployed on Richmond protesters standing off near police headquarters

Police officers in riot gear and face shields stand against protesters on Grace Street. Photo by Andrew Ringle

Hannah Eason, Managing Editor
Andrew Ringle, Executive Editor

Police officers used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters Sunday night in response to demonstrations at the police headquarters in downtown Richmond.

Protesters lined the street in a standoff with officers from Henrico, Richmond and Virginia State Police, and were pepper sprayed twice before being tear-gassed. Many demanded the release of a protester who was arrested on Sunday and chanted “let her out.” 

The organizer was charged with inciting a riot, assaulting a police officer and is being held without bail, according to a report on Twitter. Richmond police officer Jon Bridges was shown in a video saying the protester was removed from the area.

Crowds dispersed from Grace Street after 2 a.m. Monday after officers deployed tear gas.

A Richmond high school math teacher who wished to be identified as John said he was indirectly pepper sprayed by police on Sunday night.

“I just saw that there were folks who the police were harassing and I walked over to try and protect them and make sure they weren’t arrested,” he said.

John said it was his fifth night as a protester in the Richmond demonstrations. He said he wanted to join after seeing demonstrations in Minneapolis. Protests sparked nationwide last month after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis.

“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity for the people to speak out together collectively and demand real change,” John said. “This feels like a hopeful opportunity, a hopeful moment.”

Austin Carroll, a Richmond resident who recently moved from Detroit, said he was pepper sprayed during Sunday’s protest near a 10-year-old child. Medics in the field later treated Carroll’s eyes with milk.

“We are tired, enough is enough. We want to see change now, and we want to see a dramatic change in bringing down the power system, the police force,” Carroll said. “We’re out here for a thousand reasons.”

Carroll said he wants the Richmond police officer who drove into protesters near the Robert E. Lee statue on Saturday night to be fired.

Videos posted to Twitter on Saturday showed protesters blocking a Richmond police car from entering the traffic circle surrounding the Robert E. Lee statue. The officer backed up, drove onto the median and continued driving toward protesters that surrounded the car. 

The Richmond Police Department stated in a tweet that it was investigating a possible assault on the officer inside the vehicle and confirmed a protester may have been struck.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney requested that the officer was placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation from the commonwealth’s attorney.

Henrico Police stands with Richmond and state officers outside of the Richmond Police Grace Street headquarters. Photo by Andrew Ringle

Contributing Writer Zachary Klosko contributed to this report.

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