Protesters march in Richmond to deliver a message to Sen. Tim Kaine

Posted at 10:20 PM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-07 10:01:10-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in Monroe Park Monday afternoon for an organized march to the Richmond-based office of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. 

There they delivered a letter of grievance which called on Sen. Kaine (D- Virginia) and other elected leaders to demand an immediate stop to the war in Gaza and that U.S. universities and businesses divest all dealings with Israel.

The protests diverted traffic along 9th and Main Streets for 40 minutes as protesters stood in front of Kaine’s office. 

“We hold every single government leader who has chosen to stay silent accountable,” protest organizer Sereen Haddad said. “To not take the actions needed to stop this genocide, is complicit in genocide.”

Pro Palestine Protest Richmond May 6 2024

Kaine’s office released the following statement.

“He has been in constant dialogue with Virginians about Israel/Gaza over the past seven months and has publicly and repeatedly called for a deal to release the hostages taken by Hamas and establish a ceasefire in Gaza,” the statement read.

The statement also indicated that the senator continued to advocate for more humanitarian aid in Gaza and that U.S. weapons transfers to Israel prioritize defensive needs, rather than weapons that could escalate the conflict. 

Protesters say their frustrations go beyond elected leaders.

Pro Palestine Protest Richmond May 6 2024

Several also condemned the police response to last Monday’s protests on the campus of VCU after dozens of protesters set up an encampment in defiance of university policies. 

VCU said protesters were given four warnings to vacate the encampment and were arrested after refusing to comply.

Police also arrested protesters who threw water bottles or chemical agents at police.

A total of 13 people were arrested.

Haddad said students did not engage in throwing chemical agents at police. 

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“It’s absolutely no excuse to have treated the students the way they had treated them,” Haddad said. “These students did not feel safe, and we felt no way protected by our own university.” 

Monday evening, some student-led groups held a forum in the University Commons.

Organizers said it was an opportunity for students to have their voices heard and to discuss graduation activities slated for May 11, where Governor Glenn Youngkin is expected to deliver the commencement address.  

The student forum stated that a walk-out is planned if Youngkin remained the speaker. 

CBS 6 asked Gov. Youngkin's office to respond to the planned walk-out.

"Governor Youngkin looks forward to celebrating the accomplishments of VCU’s class of 2024 at their commencement on Saturday," said Governor Youngkin’s Press Secretary Christian Martinez.

A VCU spokesperson addressed the potential consequences of a disruption at graduation.

"Commencement is a time for our graduates and their families and friends to celebrate academic achievements and their experiences at VCU. Commencement is an official university event and disruptions will not be tolerated. We expect our graduates and their guests will celebrate with behavior that allows everyone to enjoy this milestone occasion. But anyone who engages in a prolonged disruption may be asked to leave the ceremony or could be removed from the Convention Center. VCU Police and law enforcement partners are committed to supporting a safe environment for everyone who attends," according to the statement.

Protest organizers said while many students were headed home for the summer, they remained committed to peaceful and continued gatherings until a cease-fire is agreed upon.

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