Police Tear Gas, Charge Crowd Before Curfew Begins
Final update, 12:40 p.m.:
Richmond Police tear-gassed hundreds of protesters gathered around the Robert E. Lee Monument Monday night, roughly 20 minutes before an 8 p.m. curfew. After conflicting explanations, the department apologized through a Tweet. According to the statement, after reviewing video from the protest, Police Chief William Smith said the officers involved took "unwarranted action" and would be disciplined for violating department "protocols and directions given."
Drone footage of the protest before and as gas was deployed.
Mayor Levar Stoney also apologized over Twitter, and invited protesters to "demand answers" from him at City Hall tomorrow at noon.
There were reports that protesters tried to take down monuments in other places, and police appeared to be working to protect the monuments by forming perimeters around them. Police officers in full riot gear with shields and sprays faced off with protesters carrying milk and cameras.
On Twitter, the executive editor of the Commonwealth Times broadcast the end of the protest sometime after 11 p.m., in which protesters discussed attending Stoney's apology at City Hall before closing with a prayer.
VPM will continue to cover the protests tomorrow online and at 88.9 FM.
Breaking: Law enforcement deployed tear gas, pepper spray around 7:40 p.m. in advance of the 8 p.m. curfew, disrupting a planned protest.
Update 10:00 p.m.:
After reviewing video, Richmond Police say the tear gas they deployed at the Lee Monument was an "unwarranted action." The officers involved will be pulled from the field and disciplined. VPM will follow up on this.
Update 9:15 p.m.:
Mayor Levar Stoney has apologized for the police action and invited the public to "demand answers" from him tomorrow at City Hall.
The police have also issued a statement on Twitter, claiming that they had to use tear gas against a peaceful group in order to cut through to support officers elsewhere who were dealing with violent protesters. VPM was unable to substantiate this claim immediately.
Monday's protest began at 5 p.m. at Monroe Park, and was dispersed 20 minutes before an 8 p.m. curfew, when law enforcement rushed the crowd with tear gas and pepper spray. Thousands of people had gathered and marched toward the Capitol building, which was closed over the weekend during prior protests.
The crowd marched back towards Monroe Park, and then to Monument Avenue, where it stretched from Stuart Circle to the Lee Monument. The peaceful group was assisted by bystanders who handed out water, food and medical supplies from the sidewalks.
Around 7:40 p.m., law enforcement rushed them with tear gas and pepper spray.
This is breaking news. We will update this story with future developments.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story had the time inaccurately listed as 6:40. We have updated it to 7:40.