RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Protestors and local law enforcement were engaged in a standoff last night in downtown Richmond that resulted in one arrest and pepper spray being deployed.
Sunday night’s demonstration against police brutality, inspired by recent altercations between protestors and Richmond Police, started Sunday evening in Monroe Park and moved to Richmond Police Headquarters on E. Grace Street. The protestors were demanding answers from police regarding the video from Saturday night involving a RPD SUV and protestors near the Robert E. Lee Monument.
Hannah Eason, a Virginia Commonwealth University student and journalist with the Commonwealth Times, was at the scene and provided 8News video of what looks like police spraying a chemical agent at protesters. Eason was among the many attendees who shared video, photos and information on Twitter throughout the night.
Three officers suffered injuries, several city vehicles were damaged, buildings were vandalized and numerous dumpster fires were set. Multiple warnings to disperse were ignored by the crowd, police said Monday, which prompted authorities to use a pepper spray fogger.
One woman, identified as Micheala Hatton, was arrested early Monday on felony charges of assaulting an officer and conspiring to incite a riot. According to police, Hatton struck an officer in the head with a bullhorn after the officer attempted to stop her from crossing the police line. Police said she was warned repeatedly not to cross the police line.
Hatton, age 22, was released from jail earlier today and her case is continued until July 14.
“This demonstration escalated into rioting and violence that lasted throughout the night and into the early morning hours,” Richmond Police Chief William C. Smith said in a statement. “Last night’s actions far exceeded what is considered to be lawful First Amendment activity. Organizers were intent on provocation and creating mayhem by throwing rocks and other objects at the officers on duty, who showed great restraint in response to these attacks.”
Andrew Ringle, a journalist for the Commonwealth Times, caught much of the encounter on camera. He told 8News that he arrived around 9:30 p.m., saying the demonstrations started out peaceful but tensions quickly escalated with many chanting and some throwing water bottles at officers.
“Some officers were getting in arguments with protesters that were speaking directly to them,” Ringle said. “Occasionally other officers would come up and pull one officer away from protesters to sort of de-escalate the situation. The turning point was when police used pepper spray on protesters. That’s when things started getting really tense.”
Ringle said he and his colleagues were hit as well.
“One protester told me that he was standing next to a 10-year-old girl when it happened,” he claimed.
Virginia State Police said Monday night that one of their sergeants were among the officers injured in Sunday night’s standoff. Troopers said the sergeant suffered a leg injury after being struck by a large piece of asphalt thrown at him by a protester.
He was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries.
Earlier in the day, the ACLU of Virginia, Southerners on New Ground and Richmond for All sent a letter to Richmond Police Chief William Smith, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond City Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin about the last few weeks of protests.
In their letter, the groups said they were concerned about the RPD’s use of violence against protesters. They specifically cited Saturday night’s SUV incident and June 1, when tear gas was deployed on peaceful protesters.
After-the-fact apologies are, however, insufficient to remedy the harm and ongoing risk that individuals face when exercising their constitutional rights in this city. All of you must take positive action—individually and collectively—to lead changes in the laws, policies, practices, and police culture that allowed these events to take place.”Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, ACLU-VA Executive Director
They also listed actions they would like city officials to take in order to rectify the current situation and prevent it from happening again. These measures include holding police accountable for their actions and dropping all charges against protesters.
You can read the full letter here.