“Why This Moment” captures Richmond’s frustrations over police brutality. Watch the film Thursday, Sept. 30 on VPM PBS
More than a year ago, the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer stirred protests across the country, including in Richmond, Virginia. Domico Phillips was on the ground with local protesters from the very beginning, capturing photos and videos.
“When that happened with George Floyd, everybody united together and took matters into their own hands,” said Phillips as he documented everything from protests, arrests and fires, to cookouts, dance performances and community gardens. “Coming out here every day and every night, you don’t know what to expect.”
Throughout the protests, there was a heavy police and military presence along with a spectrum of violence, as well as apologies from city and state officials, peaceful demonstrations, and ultimately the removal of nearly every Confederate statue in Richmond. Many monuments were removed by city officials and property owners, though some were pulled down by protesters. The final Confederate statue on Monument Ave. — Robert E. Lee — was removed Wednesday, September 8, more than a year after the protests began, and nearly 9 months after the state fenced off the area.
Filmmakers Phillips and Metta Bastet captured these history-making events in Richmond as people expressed their frustrations over repeated acts of police violence in the documentary, “Why This Moment.” The film shares the emotions and stories surrounding the protests from the perspective of local activists.
“The murder of George Floyd was the last straw, you know, for our nation and beyond,” said Princess Blanding, an independent gubernatorial candidate whose brother, Marcus-David Peters, was killed by Richmond police in 2018 during a mental health crisis.
Activists informally renamed the median the “Beautiful Marcus-David Peters Circle” in honor of his memory, and it became a gathering spot for racial justice activists and others. The film features Blanding and spotlights her brother as well as Richmond’s own reckoning with police reform.
“Why this moment?” asked Bastet, lead film producer and director, coining the title for the documentary. After decades of seeing Confederate statues and monuments across the city, Bestat says she was stunned when momentum from the protests led to their removal.
“Why This Moment” airs on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 8:00 p.m. on VPM PBS.
To learn more about VPM’s documentaries, visit pbs.org/show/vpm-documentaries/