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Officers attacked, 12 arrested after 'Reclamation Square' deemed unlawful

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 23:50:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A dozen people were arrested for Unlawful Assembly in front of City Hall early Tuesday morning.

Protesters made their way down Marshall Street with their tents, blankets, sleeping bags, and water to hold a sit-in protest.

The protesters had been camping around the Lee Monument along Monument Avenue in Richmond, but new rules closed Lee Monument to the public after sundown.

Protesters distributed fliers indicating they planned to stay in place long-term at what they dubbed "Reclamation Square" outside Richmond City Hall

"Protesters threw traffic cones, barricades and concrete trash cans into the street, used vehicles to block off the street and set up tents in front of the entrance doors. The protesters also threw rocks and other objects at the officers," said a Richmond Police spokesperson.

Police say one RPD officer was injured when he was struck on the arm by a hickory stick. He was treated at the scene.

Richmond Police say they declared an Unlawful Assembly approximately forty minutes after the officers first arrived. The announcement was also posted on Twitter.

"This area is being deemed an unlawful assembly due to conditions of activity such as sit-ins, sit-downs, blocking traffic, blocking entrances or exits of buildings that impact public safety or infrastructure," the tweet read.

Virginia State Police and Richmond Police then used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

Police say after another 45 minutes had passed, officers began arresting those who had not dispersed.

On Tuesday night, Virginia State Police said that one RPD officer and three Virginia State Troopers were attacked with a wooden pole. One trooper suffered a "serious arm injury" and another trooper's helmet was cracked in the incident.

Twelve people were arrested and charged. They have since been released from the Justice Center.

· Adrianna E. Carpenter, 30, W/F, Richmond
· William A. Neer, 27, W/M, Richmond
· Stephanie R. Smith, W/F, 29, Richmond
· Lily V. Bova, 27, W/M, Virginia Beach
· Ha N. Tran, 29, A/F, Richmond
· Darian A. White, 23, W/F, Richmond
· Anthony J. Laudermilk, 22, W/M, Richmond
· Jasmine Naghedi, 22, Unknown/F, Richmond
· Alaja Patterson, 19, B/F, Richmond
· Deandre J.E. Quarles, 22, B/M, Richmond
· Jonathan A. Delk, 24, B/M, Richmond -- Delk was also served an outstanding felony warrant for embezzlement
· John D. Weakley, 37, W/M, Richmond -- Weakley was also charged with four counts of Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer

Mayor Levar Stoney released a statement Tuesday afternoon addressing the unlawful assemblies in front of City Hall.

“I understand the goals of those who occupied the street outside of City Hall last night. I know they want to be heard, but camping in the street, barricading a public right of way and blocking access to a nearby hospital is simply not the way.

There are many opportunities for lawful engagement with local government on issues of racial equity, both currently in place and in development. I invite them to participate.”

Monday night's protest marked 25 days of demonstrations in Richmond against police brutality and racial injustice.

Kalia Harris helped organize food for protesters to take to Marshall Street.

"I brought out the food, we had some speeches -- really amazing speeches," she recalled.

Harris, the co-host of the podcast Race Capitol, said City Hall was chosen to coincide with a City Council meeting on restoring order in the city. "Defunding the police" was also addressed by the protesters outside the location where city leaders decide on the yearly budget.

Harris said police began moving into the area as the group set up a projector to watch a movie.

"I think the biggest hazard to public safety last night was Richmond Police coming in," she said. "Folks were comfortable and safe and that only changed when police came and declared it unlawful."

Harris left the area before the unlawful assembly order was declared.

Governor Ralph Northam addressed the unrest in Richmond during his COVID-19 press conference on Tuesday.

"But after 3 weeks, it is no longer clear what the goals are or our path to achieve them. Clearly Richmond needs a different path forward. These nightly conflicts cannot continue indefinitely," Northam said.

He urged the protesters and city to work together. Northam was asked if the use of tear gas and pepper spray by officers during a pandemic concerns him as a physician, and if he would consider directing police not to use them.

"Obviously, we don't like seeing the use of tear gas and rubber bullets -- so, no, I'm not going to direct the police how to do their work," he responded.

Northam also defended the decision made by the officers to clear the streets.

"An unlawful assembly was called a couple of times, people refused to leave, and so when people break the law we can't condone that," Northam stated.

Dr. William Pelfrey, a professor of criminal justice and policing at VCU’s Wilder School, said the police are in a difficult position.

"they want to maintain their safety and subsequently the safety of the protests. But they also have decided that dispersing the crowd was the right approach," he explained. "In the dark, which happens to describe this setting, police are more likely to use chemical agents because they can’t see what’s going on. They want to maintain a safe distance from the crowd."

Dr. Pelfrey has studied protester and police interactions throughout American history. City officials and doctors have criticized the police for using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse crowds in recent days.

“During a pandemic like this where respiratory issues are particularly important, chemical agents represent a more serious threat than during a typical protest," Pelfrey said. "Police would be well-served to engage the protesters in dialogue rather than using chemical agents or heavily armed officers.“