Richmond Curfew Extended, Virginia Declares State of Emergency
Update 11:20 p.m. Sunday - In response to incident between VPM's reporting staff and police officers, VPM's CEO Jayme Swain released the following statement.
"We are aware that two of our journalists were involved in a confrontation with law enforcement officers while covering Sunday night’s protests in downtown Richmond. After identifying themselves as members of the press, they and several journalists from other outlets were pepper sprayed, and our reporter was pushed to the ground. There is simply no justification for the police to harm working journalists. We will not shy away from our duty and responsibility under the First Amendment to report what's happening in our community and hold those in power accountable. We are taking all necessary steps to protect our colleagues and their right to report the news."
Update 11:11 p.m. Sunday - A spokesperson with the Virginia National Guard says soldiers and airmen left their staging area to link up with RPD and Capitol Police in “direct support of them.” Gov. Northam called them to assist in response for the city earlier today.
Update: 10:16 p.m. Sunday - A law enforcement source told VPM that the number of arrests are now between 30 - 40 now, and that more arrests are underway for individuals violating the curfew. RPD responded in a Tweet that the final number should be released later tonight.
Update 9:56 p.m. Sunday - In a Tweet, Richmond Police report about two dozen people are in custody, for violating the city’s 8 p.m. curfew.
Update 9:44 p.m. Sunday - After identifying himself to a police officer as a member of the press and showing his press badge, VPM reporter Roberto Roldan was sprayed in the face with pepper spray and then shoved to the ground. Our photographer Crixell Matthews was also pepper sprayed. They are both safe and away from the scene now. Other reporters and photographers, Roldan says, were coughing and running from the area. More details to come.
Update 9:15 p.m. Sunday - The Department of General Services and Capitol Police are closing Capitol Square until further notice, as protests continue in Richmond. The grounds were initially closed on Saturday, after individuals broke the window of a state building that houses the Attorney General’s Office and graffitied other state properties the night before. DGS and Capitol Police said in a press release that they will monitor activity near Capitol Square to determine when it is appropriate to reopen to the public. *Correction: Capitol Square was initially closed Saturday, it was originally written as Friday.
Story updated: 5/31/20, 4:34 p.m.
Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency and the city of Richmond is under curfew following two nights of protests that left at least four police officers injured and many local shops, including legacy black-owned businesses, destroyed.
Mayor Levar Stoney announced the curfew during a press conference Sunday morning and has already received permission from the governor to extend it through Wednesday. Starting Sunday at 8 p.m. individuals and groups are banned from being in public spaces within city limits. Stoney said people may only be out in public to go to and from work, seek medical attention or assistance from first responders.
Northam said the National Guard is on alert and will step in if Richmond needs assistance.
Overnight Saturday, hundreds of people marched near the Capitol and on Broad Street. After midnight, the Daughters of the Confederacy headquarters on Arthur Ashe Boulevard was set on fire. The building was tagged with graffiti, along with Confederate statues on nearby Monument Avenue.
“I hear you. I know your pain is real,” Northam said in his first statement on the demonstrations over the weekend. “We have all seen too many people harassed, abused, and killed by law enforcement officers, in too many places, for too long—just for being black. I also know that others are exploiting this pain and are now causing violence,”
Northam released a statement Friday about the deaths of George Floyd, the man who died while in the custody of Minnesota police last week, as well as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Protesters and other individuals broke windows and looted stores, primarily along Broad Street. A group also dragged items from the alleyways by Broad and Henry Streets, piling them up in the middle of the road in an improvised barricade which they then set on fire. Within fifteen minutes, the fire got out of control and the Richmond Fire Department stepped in.
Stoney said at least four officers and several firefighters were injured Saturday. One man suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound when he was sitting in his car.
“When you knock out windows of businesses that have nothing to do with this, you are not inspiring change. That's an insult to the cause,” Stoney said. “It's an insult to black men, black women, who suffer every day. Every day at the hands of structural racism in this nation. At this point, these bad actors are hijacking the cause.
Stoney said the looting and destruction is making a mockery of George Floyd.
“And let's not forget that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic,” Stoney added. And that is taking a disproportionate toll on the black and brown communities that reside right here in the city of Richmond.”
Richmond Police Chief William Smith stressed his anger over the death of George Floyd and his support for the protests, which have started each night peacefully. But he choked up when he recalled an incident in which protesters set fire to an occupied building on Broad Street early Sunday morning and blocked fire crews from accessing the building.
“Inside that home was a child. Officers were able to help those people out of the house. We were able to get the fire department there safely,” Smith said, stopping repeatedly to hold back tears. “This is not Richmond,” Smith said.
Fire Chief Melvin Carter said there were seven building fires related to Saturday’s protest.
“Nearly every incident we were met with some form of resistance where police had to escort us in,” Carter said.“In some cases, we had to leave the area before we finished extinguishing whatever was on fire.”
Smith said the department is investigating individuals who may not be involved in the protests, but are part of an organized effort to use the demonstrations as a cover to commit violence and destroy property.
“I think we can all understand attacking the symbols of the past and of the racist past,” Smith said, referring to the confederate monuments that had been vandalized the previous night. “But when you look at trying to burn down a VCU dormitory, or burn down people's homes, or burn down and loot the stores that we depend on every day, those things don't correlate at all.”
More than a thousand people also met at Brown’s Island Sunday morning for a march that proceeded without violence. Donia Feliciano, 26, said she’s frustrated that people still have to speak out against police violence. Feliciano wanted to be there because of her young son and twins she’s currently pregnant with.
“I don’t want them to struggle growing up, just because of the color of his skin,” Feliciano said.
From there they headed to the Capitol, where demonstrators took a knee and put their hands up in front of Capitol Police officers lined up in the square. A larger barricade was set up by the 9th Street entrance of Capitol Square Sunday. The group then went to the 17th Street Market, where a number of people spoke.
The night before, a smaller barricade set up by officers near that entrance was taken apart by demonstrators. Two Capitol Police officers were injured by objects thrown at them from the crowd and were taken to VCU Medical Center, according to a Capitol Police spokesperson.
This story is still developing. Stay with VPM for updates.
*Whittney Evans, Sara McCloskey, Roberto Roldan, and David Streever contributed to this report.