Police use chemical agents to disperse ‘unlawful’ gathering at J.E.B. Stuart statue in Richmond

Police officers began pepper spraying protesters and members of the press after declaring an unlawful protest at the J.E.B. Stuart statue on June 22. Photo by Andrew Ringle

Andrew Ringle, Executive Editor

Richmond and Virginia State police officers deployed what appeared to be pepper spray, flash bangs and tear gas on demonstrators and reporters at the J.E.B. Stuart memorial on Sunday. 

Protesters attempted to pull down the statue with rope before officers from the Richmond Police Department responded. Police announced through bullhorns that the gathering had been declared “unlawful,” urging protesters to disperse or face arrests or chemical agents.

More than 30 Richmond Police officers responded to the scene, and additional officers from Virginia State Police arrived at 9:50 p.m. 

Richmond Police declared the demonstrations near the Stuart statue unlawful at around 9:20 p.m., the department tweeted on Sunday. 

Some protesters threw bottles of liquid at police officers and returned flash bangs and tear gas devices that were rolled by police toward the crowd.

Richmond City Council representative Michael Jones arrived at the statue shortly after police used force to disperse crowds. Jones said he told police he was concerned about children gathered near the statue of Robert E. Lee one block away on Monument Avenue.

Around midnight on Sunday, City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch asked for the city’s Confederate monuments to be removed immediately for public safety, among other reasons.

The use of police force follows several nights of peaceful demonstrations at the Robert E. Lee monument. Thousands gathered in Richmond throughout the weekend to celebrate Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, some of whom received news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865.

Captain William “Jody” Blackwell was appointed as interim police chief of RPD on Tuesday following former police chief William Smith’s resignation. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney requested Smith’s resignation the morning after two consecutive nights of armed police responses to demonstrations at the police headquarters on Grace Street.

Blackwell said during a press conference on Thursday that police would “get the city back.” Sunday was the first night that Richmond Police used pepper spray and tear gas on demonstrators since Blackwell’s appointment.

Protesters stand off against and police officers in riot gear in Stuart Circle in Richmond. Photo by Andrew Ringle

5 Comments

  1. It’s about time the police have stood their ground and taken charge ! These people , rioters , criminals have had their way long enough , it’s time for the people of Richmond to Demand some normalcy.
    These actions are not acceptable to the majority of people and it serves no purpose except to continue unrest in our city and state ! What these “ people” are doing is against the law!!!! Arrest them , lock them up ! They will have their day in court !! If littlest Johnny were out there graffiting a store front or just an old building he would be arrested and ordered to pay restitution !!! What makes these thugs , vandals above the law ? The police did the right thing ! Stop tying their hands up , let them do their jobs ! And if news reporters get in the way of the spray I would say your too close !

    • Judy, I have some questions about your shared perspective here. Is putting “people” in quotation marks a subtle attempt to dehumanize the citizens protesting police brutality and excessive force? Are you advocating for the police force to employ chemical weapons banned in international warfare on the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect?

      Due to qualified immunity, police are frequently exempt from repercussions for breaking the law and/or violating citizens’ Constitutional rights. Do you think police should not be held accountable to the law?

      Have you looked into what Richmond city council members Stephanie Lynch and Michael Jones have to say about this issue?

      • Celeni , the answer to your question is yes . Anyone who acts in such a violent way and are involved in uncontrollable acts of violence and won’t adhere to what the police are saying to them, then yes, by any means possible . These people are not protesters now ,they are attention seekers snd destroyers of public and private property . They do not speak for the majority of the people . They do their Protesting ,rioting in the night hours under the cover of darkness .
        I’m not saying that in the past that. the police have gone over the edge in some cases . Be it racism or simply being afraid of who or what situation they ,the police , are putting themselves in , to protect you and me . I do feel the police need to be taught different means of apprehending a suspect when the person isn’t compliant with the officers orders ,but if people would put themselves in the Officers place for a moment and some big dude or out of control female comes charging a cop don’t you think he has a right to defend him or herself ? I know I most certainly would defend myself if someone came charging at me and I felt threatened .
        As for the police being immune for their actions , I do feel that in the past they at times have gotten away with things that shouldn’t have . But you can not tie the polices hands and expect them to serve and protect you . And we can’t expect our country to run in some sort of civil way if we don’t have law and order. I’m thinking we are probably from different generations and the entitled youth of this generation could very well contribute to the fall of our great country, if the democrats don’t finish us off first !
        My parting words for you are , I have loved this country all my life , I have been to Europe and I have been to Japan ,both beautiful countries , but I couldn’t wait to get back to My country . Now I am old and embarrassed of what my country is becoming and will be thankful when My Lord takes me home . I wish you peace and some form of happiness in this out of control world in which we live .

  2. Seriously all of this is nothing new. Everyone has a right to protest in this country. However everyone who does, should realize that when property is destroyed or vandalized one is subject to arrest. That includes Ms. Lynch & Mr. Jones. When you put yourself in harm’s way there’s a chance you might get hurt. I assume as city council members Ms. Lynch & Mr. Jones are adults. The police are there to protect law-bidding citizens, property & maintain order. A crowd in the middle of the night on a city street trying to destroy city property seems to be a recipe for trouble. You reap what you sow.

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