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The moment that sparked clashes between Richmond Police and protesters

Posted at 11:31 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 07:39:43-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Another night of clashes between Richmond Police and protesters outside police headquarters in downtown Richmond.

CBS 6 photojournalists reported Monday night's "Defund the Police" protest and rally was mostly peaceful until one person walked outside the designated perimeter established by police. An officer then went into the crowd to detain the person who crossed the line.

That resulted in pepper-spray being deployed on some protesters, according to CBS 6 crews on scene. Flashbangs were also used to disperse the crowd. That was at about 10:15 p.m.

Richmond June 15, 2020

"Tear gas everywhere," Richmond City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch tweeted from downtown Richmond. "Scared for the people who are closer in. This is absolutely unacceptable."

Councilmember Michael Jones, who has called for City Council to take action in response to the "unacceptable behavior" from RPD towards protesters, also attended the demonstration.

"Can’t believe what I saw this evening," he tweeted.

The crowd had mostly dispersed from police headquarters by 11 p.m.

Monday night marked the third night in a row of violent confrontations between police and protesters.

Following incidents both Saturday and Sunday nights, Richmond Police Chief William Smith released a statement Monday afternoon that read in part:

“I expect my officers to remain patient and professional during this trying time and will hold accountable those who do not uphold this standard. But demonstrators must practice non-violence, and under no circumstance will I allow violent protest to continue to harm our community.”

Three officers were injured during the Sunday night unrest, according to Richmond Police. Several city vehicles, including city dump trucks, sustained significant damage.

Crime Insider sources told Jon Burkett someone threw chunks of asphalt at officers Sunday night. A tip later confirmed by Virginia State Police.

"Among the Virginia State Police injured, was a sergeant who was transported to VCU Medical Center to be treated for a leg injury after being struck by a large piece of asphalt thrown at him by a protester," a Virginia State Police spokesperson wrote. "A trooper was struck in the head with an object. Fortunately, his helmet took the brunt of the impact and he suffered only a minor injury."

One person was arrested Sunday night and charged with felony assault on a law enforcement officer and conspiracy to incite a riot.

Get on the Same Page

Retired Virginia State Police Supt. Gerald Massengill said for this situation to calm, police and the public must get on the same page.

“The relationship between the community and law enforcement has to be there in order for law enforcement to be effective. It was true in the '60s and it is true today,” Massengill told Burkett.

Equality and justice reform has been the message of many of the protesters. Massengill agrees it's an important message.

"Biased policing has no place in American policing,” he said. “If you as a police officer are taking action because the color of one’s skin, or how they wear their hair or clothes is wrong."

Massengill witnessed riots during the Civil Rights movement as a police officer in the 1960s. He said his hope was that the two sides could compromise and communicate, adding lack of leadership almost always fans the flames.

"Until the mayor or whoever is doing the second-guessing or Monday-morning quarterbacking or whatever you want to call it, before it's done, he needs to understand what it is like to put his hands on an individual to say, ‘you're under arrest and that person says, 'No I'm not,’” he said. “Then you have a physical altercation on your hands and what are you gonna’ do?"

Richmond Police Chief William Smith drew a distinction Monday between what he said was the overwhelming majority of protesters who are peacefully and lawfully exercising their rights and those who are seeking to do harm to the community through acts of violence, inciting conflict with law enforcement and destroying property.

“We fully support peaceful demonstrations, but we will not tolerate the violent assault of police officers, the threats to law-abiding members of our residential and business community or the willful destruction of city and private property," he said in a statement.

When asked about the use of tear gas on the crowd, Col. Massengill said it was a non-lethal way to disperse an unlawful assembly. Richmond Police said it was used Sunday night after several warnings were made to the crowd to disperse.

Police have not yet announced any information about arrests following Monday night's unrest.