RICHMOND, Va. -- The chief of police believes members of Antifa and the Boogaloo boys were part of the hundreds of people who marched to Richmond Police Headquarters Saturday night during a demonstration in support of protesters in Portland, Oregon. That group continued marching leaving a path of destruction that included windows shattered at restaurants, businesses and a Virginia Commonwealth University dorm.
"We have identified some individuals who have been seen with the Boogaloo boys and some Antifa groups around the area," Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said during a news conference Sunday afternoon. "The majority of those individuals who were there last night were Caucasian."
Smith also said that he believed some in the crowd were Antifa-influenced.
"And some of the individuals that we encountered were from outside of Richmond, Virginia, and some of the surrounding area," Smith noted.
Smith said an online flyer for the “Richmond Stands with Portland” demonstration, which had been circulating for days and called for violence, did not originate in Richmond."
"We know that the origin of the flyer came from outside of Richmond," Smith said. "There are some people who are still inside some of these organizations that will still give us information. And that's how we know it came from outside of Richmond.
Officials said the six men arrested Saturday night were not charged in the vandalism and destruction in several Richmond neighborhoods. (Two of those suspects were charged with felonies: assault on a law enforcement officer; possession of a firearm while rioting.)
When asked when those responsible for the destruction would be held responsible, Smith said police are "utilizing a lot of video to identify people."
Smith had this message to the owners of businesses, like Graduate Richmond, the Village Cafe, Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Panda Express, Rick's Pizza and SWEAT in the Fan, were damaged.
"We still stand with them and we hope that they continue to stand with us," Smith said. "And know that we are not necessarily laying down on this -- we're not. What we are doing is doing vigorous investigations to identify these individuals to hold them accountable for everything that they did."
The chief and the mayor later thanked the 200 Virginia State troopers who helped with the demonstration as well as the Richmond police officers who worked during their vacation or days off.
Mayor: White supremacists marched under Black Lives Matter banner
Mayor Levar Stoney opened his remarks by thanking peaceful protesters with organizations like Black Lives Matter after what he called "24 consecutive days of peaceful protests." He also thanked the police and fire departments for their response Saturday night.
"You know, here in Richmond our standard for protest is that all groups walk away safe," Stoney said. "But protesters having expressed their discontent, and the officers having supported that peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. That's not what happened last night."
Stoney said the violence "hurt many people in the Richmond community, both through the threatening of lives and the destruction of property. And simply put, that is unacceptable in the City of Richmond. Unacceptable."
Police have now released chemical agents to clear the area! One protester was taken into custody. pic.twitter.com/kOap0F6dEz— Rob Desir (@Rob_Desir) July 26, 2020
Projectiles like rocks and batteries were thrown at police officers, Stoney said. and bricks were lobbed at firefighters trying to douse a city dump truck that was set ablaze by someone in the crowd.
"That could have led to a very, very deadly event," Stoney said.
The mayor blamed white supremacists "marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter" for corrupting the peaceful social justice movement.
"We've spoken on many occasions about those who've chosen a more violent route to express their discontent, and what that does for the overall movement towards social justice," Stoney said. "Last night that reared its ugly head right here in the City of Richmond... We saw some violent actions, violent protests, spearheaded by white supremacists. And frankly, it was disgusting. Disgusting. As they held plywood shields that read, BLM, these folks toured areas of damage downtown, The Fan, breaking windows, tagging private property with hateful language."
Stoney said Saturday's riot aimed to undermine the month of peaceful, community-driven protest in Richmond.
"As I began with, I want to send a thanks to the BLM protesters on the ground who decried the white supremacists once they were identified. I'm thankful to you for drawing the line and sticking up not just for the sanctity of your movement, but also the safety of your fellow Richmonders that you marched alongside as well," Stoney said. "I'm thankful to the officers who were on duty last night for contending with the change in expectations for them. Change is always hard, but now it is the time for that change -- and if you're on our team, you know that."
The mayor said vigils and basketball games are "far more common than the mess we saw last night."
Police want videos
The police chief urged anyone with video of the riot, including the media, to turn send it to Crime Stoppers to help investigators.
"And we will be more than happy to review that footage to help us identify who these rioters were," Smith said. "You capture things that we may not have seen or individuals we may not have seen."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.