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Richmond cleans up after protest turns destructive: 'My heart breaks'

Posted at 7:35 PM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-30 19:54:40-04

Watch WTVR CBS 6 Photojournalist Janelle Pierangelino's video report above.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Crews spent much of Saturday cleaning up from an hours-long protest that turned destructive Friday night into Saturday morning in Richmond.

"When I saw the crowd coming onto Franklin, it was very peaceful," Rachel Schmidt said. "And I knew that from the sound of the helicopters that something had gone awry."

Police are asking for help finding the people responsible for "setting fires, damaging property, or assaulting individuals" after the peaceful protest that started in Monroe Park ended hours later with several windows broken at the Richmond Police Department's headquarters and a GRTC Pulse bus being torched.

"Yeah, I heard they were riots in Capitol Square and a bus was burned up," Joe DeSimone said. "You got a right to protest whatever you want, you don't have the right to put your hands on other people's belongings."

City crews were spotted Saturday afternoon boarding up the street-level windows at the police department's Grace Street headquarters.

Blocks away, crews used pressure washers and spray paint to cover graffiti tagged on VCU's Institute for Contemporary Art.

Workers also used high-pressure sprayers to remove paint tossed on the Robert E. Lee monument on Monument Avenue.

Schmidt likened what happened to a perfect storm.

"You had people whose lives were impacted by the virus, and then you threw this into, it was just bound to blow up," Schmidt said. "My heart breaks for Richmond and it breaks for the entire country because this is a story that's gone on forever, unfortunately."

Protesters have set police cars ablaze, smashed businesses' windows and skirmished with baton-wielding officers in streets from Atlanta to Los Angeles, as anger over George Floyd's death spread across the country.

"Freedom of speech, not a freedom of rioting," Michael DeSimone said. "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

In Minneapolis, where Floyd died Monday after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck and kept it there for more than eight minutes, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz fully mobilized the state's National Guard.

"We're all hurting. I think we have to find a way to lick our wounds and get back involved in our community," Schmidt said.