Eduardo Acevedo, News Editor
Richmond residents, local elected officials and community organizers gathered on the medians around Marcus-David Peters Circle on Saturday afternoon to discuss citywide issues, including public safety and criminal justice, mental health and healthcare, housing, and education.
Four canopies, or “conversation stations,” were pitched on the east side median near the traffic circle at Monument and Allen Avenues, each with a large notepad on an easel to display the tent’s topic and give participants a chance to write questions and talking points.
Sherri Robinson, founder of Show Love LLC and organizer of the Conversations at the Monument event said organizing the event, dealing with permits and reaching out to the community was challenging.
“I would say it’s been challenging but I can’t say that it’s been stressful,” Robinson said. “It has been an honor to be able to organize this event.”
Robinson said she had planned to have the Conversations at the Monument event in July, but was delayed until Saturday because of permits needed to set up canopies and occupy space on the median.
VPM reported Friday that Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and Richmond Sheriff Antoinette Irving were slated to take part in the event. The officials did not attend due to a water balloon fight scheduled at the same time within MDP Circle, according to a tweet by the Richmond Police Department.
According to another tweet by the Richmond Police Department’s twitter account, the RPD’s “Constructive Conversation Team” received indications that they would not be welcome and Smith “decided to wait for another time” to participate in inclusive dialogue.
Officers from the RPD, however, arrived at Grace Park near the Robert E. Lee memorial around 3:30 p.m. They appeared to request the removal of a tent set up by protesters, but left shortly after drawing the attention of several event attendees and reporters.
Virginia state senators Jennifer McClellan and Ghazala Hashmi, and Delegates Betsy Carr and Dawn Adams were expected to be in attendance as well, according to VPM.
Council members Stephanie Lynch, Mike Jones and Andreas Addison from the 5th, 9th and 1st districts, respectively, joined community members in conversation under the canopies.
Members of the Richmond City Council attended the event to discuss the housing, healthcare, education and public safety issues in the city. Council member Jones said he went to the event to hear the pain and anger people in the community are feeling.
Robinson said several elected officials pulled out from appearing at the event but she was “grateful for the few that came.”
“You have to talk to the leaders, they write the laws,” Robinson said, “at the end of the day we have to get their attention.”