India Jones, Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — Organizations and residents in Richmond are bracing for potential activity related to the U.S. presidential election results.
Richmond City officials said they will work with local and state partners to ensure public safety during and after the election.
“We encourage all residents to peacefully participate in our democracy and observe public health and public safety protocols in exercising their rights,” city officials said Monday in a statement.
Virginia Commonwealth University closed parking decks on Monroe Park Campus in Richmond from Monday night until Wednesday morning due to “potential activity on campus surrounding Election Day.” The closure excludes the West Main Street Parking Deck where temporary parking accommodations are available.
Protests have erupted around the nation, including Richmond, since May. Demonstrators called for social justice and police reform after George Floyd died in police custody. Floyd’s arrest was viewed around the world, with reaction to the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 8 minutes sparking months of protest. People also flooded the streets calling for justice in the shooting of Breonna Taylor, who died when police opened fire while serving a warrant. Those deaths and others fueled a sustained call for police and criminal justice reform that has transformed the election.
Richmond protests were less frequent in the fall. The initial weekend of protests after Floyd’s death saw widespread property damage throughout the city which included graffiti, broken windows and stolen property. An 8 p.m. curfew was established a few days later and Virginia State Police joined forces with local police. There were nights of clashes between demonstrators and officers. That’s left many people anticipating a strong reaction to the election, and some residents still expect civil unrest after a political rally Sunday at the area surrounding the Robert E. Lee monument.
Richmond City Council candidate Mike Dickinson led a “Trump Train 2” rally from Henrico County to Richmond, which ended with police investigating an unoccupied car struck by gunfire and a woman being pepper-sprayed. These caravans in support of President Donald Trump recently have been parading through areas around the nation ahead of the election.
Rumors have circulated that another “Trump Train” would head into the city on the evening of Election Day. Dickinson released a statement on Facebook that he and his supporters have nothing to do with it and he encouraged people to “keep the peace.”
“My campaign and I are not associated with any Trump Train event at all today and are not sponsoring any Trump Train event today,” the statement said. “We have shared everything we’ve found online about this potential event with the police.”
Richmond resident Isabelle Munnikhuysen heard the political rally from her apartment located on West Grace Street near the monument.
“It definitely increased my fears about what tonight is going to be like,” Munnikhuysen said. “I feel more in danger.”
Many local businesses on West Broad Street situated remain boarded up due to damage from previous protests. But some businesses opted not to close on Election Day, a state holiday, and remained open regular hours.
“It is important for us to be ready and prepared,” said Lift Café manager Emily Nguyen. “But we just haven’t decided as a team what message (boarding up) sends.”
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.