VCU activists: students have a “responsibility” to get involved

On June 1, while students were away, police deployed tear gas without warning on protesters, children and animals at the Robert E. Lee statue. Photo by Jon Mirador

Katharine DeRosa, Staff Writer

As the semester starts, students return to a different Richmond; one where monuments to the Confederacy have been torn down, and the words “Black Lives Matter” are spray-painted across the boarded-up city. 

Demonstrators gathered at the Compass on Monday, the first day of classes for many, to protest against VCU Police. About 100 students participated, and two students held up a banner with a link to a petition to defund the university’s police department.

One of the protesters, Nijah Green, a sophomore double majoring in political science and gender, sexuality and women’s studies, said she came to the protest to hear people’s stories and support the demands set forth by student organization VCU Student Power. 

“It’s like a whole change for me, because I’ve never lived through something like this, and I think it was really important that I get to see this,” Green said.

Demands of Student Power at VCU

  • Defund VCUPD
  • Release the VCUPD budget
  • Remove the LiveSafe App that allows students to report tips to VCUPD
  • Ban and remove U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from campus

VCU Student Power created an online petition for these demands. Members Mikki Charles, Mikey Ramlogan and Steven Ramlogan said the organization also supports the demands put forth by community protesters, such as re-opening the Marcus-David Peters case, defunding the Richmond police and dropping all charges against protesters.

“If no one’s going to protect us, we’ll protect us.” Mikey Ramlogan — VCU Student Power member

Steven Ramlogan and other members of VCU Student Power have been protesting throughout the summer. He said the organization is designed to make VCU a more equitable, inclusive and accessible university for students, community members, faculty and staff.

“VCU students are part of the RVA community and make sure it is your responsibility to get involved and educate yourself on what’s ongoing in Richmond,” Steven Ramlogan said.

Protests against police brutality and racism have been taking place in Richmond since George Floyd died with a knee on his neck in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, sparking a nationwide revitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It’s been really great to see how much the Richmond community has come out and has been a part of this,” Charles said.

The three members stressed the importance of community leaders within the protests, calling bike marshals, medics and mutual aid integral parts of protests. Mikey Ramlogan said that bail funds and eviction sit-ins to protest evictions in Richmond mutually benefit members of the community. 

“If no one’s going to protect us, we’ll protect us,” Mikey Ramlogan said.

Various Richmond monuments honoring Confederate generals have been taken down during the protests, including those of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B Stuart. However, Charles said she believes protesters’ demands have not been met. 

 “It’s one less thing to look at, but it hasn’t brought any systemic change,” Charles said.

Taylor Maloney, president-elect of the Student Government Association at VCU, was arrested by RPD at a protest in late July with Charles. Mikey Ramlogan said he believes VCUPD will arrest student protesters during the school year.

“It’s not if, it’s when and how selectively VCU does that,” Mikey Ramlogan said.

Charles said she thinks VCUPD and the RPD will have to be more lenient in terms of force and arrests at protests.

“They can’t come off as strong as they have, otherwise they’re going to face a lot more backlash,” Charles said, “and not from students, from parents.” 

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