RICHMOND, Va. -- Thirteen Black Lives Matters protesters have been arrested after briefly shutting down Interstate-95 southbound at Belvidere Monday evening. The protesters were standing in the middle of southbound lanes blocking traffic for miles.
The incident began when protesters began walking into the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 at Exit 75 at approximately 5:45 p.m. Protester were yelling, "Black lives matters" and "No justice, no peace, no racist police."
When State Police arrived to the scene they removed detained protesters to the side of a guardrail to re-open the interstate. Traffic is now back to normal.
State Police said they made contact with the protest coordinators and notified them that being on the interstate was an unlawful assembly and advised them to leave.
“Those who refused to exit the Interstate were charged with being pedestrians on a highway and for impeding the flow of traffic. A total of 13 were arrested and transported to the City of Richmond Jail for processing,” said State Police spokesperson Sgt. Steve Vick.
State Police remained on scene until all protesters left the interstate and then allowed for traffic to resume at approximately 6:20 p.m.
Protester Bethany Coston says organizers from Charlottesville planned the protest then Richmonders decide to join in because of it's importance.
Coston said organizers arrived in multiple caravanning vehicles and slowed for half a mile, with flashers on, before stopping completely.
At that point, they exited the vehicles and stood in front of two lines of cars to shut down the highway.
When asked if protesting on the interstate was a safety issue they said it was a "small inconvenience to be reminded that racism is very real and very real here."
They stressed there was no intention of harming anyone during the shutdown.
“I made clear that precautions had been put in place to protect all those involved--both organizers and those in the vehicles who did not know the shutdown was happening,” Coston said.
In an email to CBS 6 the group said their goal is to emphasize the crisis faced by black trans women and black women in Virginia, particularly at the hands of the police.
The protesters released a statement that said in part:
“Sage Smith has been missing from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia since November 2012. Less than a year following Sage’s disappearance, Amari Hill was murdered in Richmond. And in January 2015, Lamia Beard was found murdered in Norfolk. As in the rest of the country and the rest of the world, Virginia does too little to love and protect Black trans women from harm. We say their names.
In just the past year alone, India Kager was killed by police in Virginia Beach while she slept in her parked car with her infant in the backseat; Natasha McKenna was murdered while in the custody of police at the Fairfax County jail. We say their names.
During this same time period, Kionte Spencer, Angelo Perry, William Chapman Dyzhawn Perkins, and Dominick Wise were all murdered by police in Roanoke, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Buckingham County, and Culpeper. We say their names.
We support the national Black Lives Matter movement’s demands to disarm the police, divest from prisons, and ensure safe and clean housing for Black communities."