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Elected Officials, Community Members Address Outrage Over George Floyd Killing

protesters
Yesterday, protesters gathered in front of the Lee memorial on Monument Avenue. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, following on other recent killings of Black people across the nation, has sparked protests across the country, including in Richmond. Riot police were deployed early in the protests, and the National Guard has been deployed in city streets with military equipment. Stores have been looted and fires set.

A day after law enforcement arrested more than 230 and targeted both protesters and the media with force, tear gas and pepper spray, an event organized by the local chapter of the NAACP, called "A Call for Action. Justice for All,” brought together elected officials and community leaders calling for unity.

Community activist James Minor said it’s time for “a peaceful yet powerful call to action.”

“And who do we expect to join us? Everyone. And when we want this justice, we want it now. But we can not move forward with violence and uncontrolled rage,” Minor said.

Minor said the issue wasn't racial, but “it’s an American issue of justice and respect.”

“We cannot burn up other people’s property in an attempt to make our point. The mistreatment of African Americans has now been put on the Front Street for everyone to see and those images can never be erased,” Minor said. 

After protests spread to Richmond, where some people set fires and damaged storefronts, the event was postponed from Sunday. Other speakers included Representative Delores McQuinn, Mayor Levar Stoney, Senator Tim Kaine and Police Chief William Smith, who was interrupted numerous times by community activists. 

Mayor Stoney said that it’s time for the city to create a crisis alert system, the "Marcus Alert," inside the police department. This follows two years of activism by residents and the family of Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old teacher who was shot by an RPD officer while experiencing a mental health crisis. 

“When it comes to handling incidents of mental health in our community and when our law enforcement encounters that, we have to make the crisis alert, the Marcus alert, happen in this city,” Stoney said.

The “Marcus Alert” would require police to bring in mental health professionals when responding to people in crisis. 

The mayor also said that it’s time to look at the accountability of all those in law enforcement and explore the idea of having a civilian review board to oversee community grievances about the police. He did not specifically mention reports of police attacking protesters and the media during the weekend’s protests.