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Richmond woman on Lee monument chaos: 'It was unprovoked'

Posted at 7:57 AM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 08:05:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Sarah Pentecost was walking her dog and checking out the protest along near the Lee monument in Richmond Monday night moments before police launched tear gas into the crowd.

“It seemed peaceful,” Sarah said. “There was someone standing on the other side of the Lee monument that was speaking, so I could hear clapping and cheering. But generally, people were just on-looking.”

But soon, Sarah said, the air filled with the sound of sirens. And then, tear gas.

“From what I saw. I heard the popping of them and saw it and like flying into the crowd,” she said.

Drone video recorded over the crowd showed a police truck pull up to the monument and someone inside launched a tear gas canister into the crowd.

A protestor appeared to lob a bottle at police. Then more tear gas fired at protestors.

Another video showed police running into the crowd and using pepper spray.

Like many others, Sarah ran for safety.

“As I was running down the median, the cops are lining up along the grassy part and I was like, ‘are they gonna get me?’” she recalled. “So I kept looking like, ‘Does he have mace in his hand? Is he dressed in riot gear?’ Because I didn't know what's going to happen to those of us that are running away.”

Sarah called the police action unnecessary.

“I do believe that the tear-gassing [Monday] night was unprovoked,” she said. “I think that they have to acknowledge their part in everything that's going on and how they're just as responsible for a lot of the violence and destruction that happened as are the people that actually did it.”

Monday night, Richmond's Police Chief said he had reviewed tape of the tear gassing and called it an unwarranted action. The chief also said the officers involved have been pulled from the field and face.

A similar protest Tuesday night at the Lee monument was held without incident and was attended by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and other local and state political leaders.