Dylan Seay, Contributing Writer
Zwe Wintzaw, Contributing Writer
Emma Carlson, Contributing Writer
Richmond saw two nights in a row of Black Lives Matter protests after the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.
Protesters gathered at Monroe Park on Wednesday and were met with heavy police presence. The group marched from east Monroe Park down Franklin Street, blocking traffic at several points along the way.
A VCU student who attended the protest said she was frustrated at the numerous police vehicles still present at Monroe Park after crowds had dispersed.
“For them to sit around the park at nine o’clock on a college campus is ridiculous,” she said.
Richmond police officers at the park declined to comment on why a police presence of more than 10 vehicles was necessary.
During the march, protesters chanted, “money for housing, not casinos,” and “every city, every town, burn the precinct to the ground.”
One protester commented on the numerous people in attendance with cameras.
“People get arrested because of footage like this,” the protester said.
After turning north up 4th Street, the march was intercepted by police vehicles. More than 15 marked and unmarked Richmond police vehicles were present at the scene.
As protesters turned down Broad Street, officers began to exit their vehicles and follow closely behind the protesters on foot. Multiple officers chased after protesters in smaller groups.
Witnesses on the scene expressed confusion in the heavy police presence, which included an armored vehicle and many officers in full riot gear.
The crowd quickly dispersed around Foushee Street at 8:50 p.m., and officers returned to their vehicles. There are currently no reports of any arrests from Wednesday night’s protest.
The next night, a Black Lives Matter rally was held outside the fenced-in Marcus-David Peters Circle, where the Robert E. Lee monument still remains. Richmond police did not respond in riot gear, however unmarked Capitol police vehicles occasionally circled the statue during the event with lights off, Dogwood reported.
“We are here to fight a culture of death in the Black community,” said Lawrence West, an active member of the Black Lives Matter organization in Richmond.
West said the purpose of the rally was to fight the culture of death with a celebration of life and build a community of people regardless of race, age and gender.
Marcus-David Peters Circle, or the area surrounding the Lee Monument, is named after VCU alumnus Marcus-David Peters who was shot and killed by police on Interstate 95 while experiencing a mental health crisis.
The rallies were organized directly in response to the recent death of Daunte Wright, a Black man who was fatally shot after being pulled over. Former officer Kim Potter is claiming she meant to reach for her taser instead of a gun and accidentally shot Wright. Potter served as a Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer for 26 years. She resigned from her position and has been charged with 2nd degree manslaughter.
A woman who goes by the name of Bubbles said she got involved with the Black Lives Matter movement in Richmond with her husband Ray in June. They began by attending last year’s protests and went on to begin their own organization: All Love in the Kitchen. The couple served food to people who gathered around Marcus-David Peters Circle on Thursday.
“I’ve been feeding the people out here for seven to eight months straight,” Bubbles said.
Ray said they have built a community space for everyone who wants to join in promoting systemic change. The two built up gardens within the circle and provided tents for people who were staying the night within and around the circle last summer.
“What we want is peace out here,” Ray said. “So come sit down, read a book, today kids came out and started kicking a ball. And we want to keep it like that.”
Abbey Russel, a freshman at VCU studying dance, found out about the celebration through Instagram.
“I have been looking for something to protest the killing of Daunte Wright and just in general there’s been a lot of unrest,” Russel said. “I just wanted to do what I could to support the community and support BLM.”
West said the circle harbors a safe environment and that its peaceful nature is a matter of pride for the community.