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‘Conversations at the Monument’ Drew Crowd but Not Protesters, Police

People talking under tent
Andreas Addison was one of the elected officials who came to the Robert E. Lee monument Saturday to speak to residents. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM News)

Richmond Police did not attend an event this weekend aimed at bringing law enforcement and elected officials together with the public for a conversation about public safety and race. The agency said that’s because protesters indicated that they would not be welcome. 

Organizers planned “Conversations at the Monument” near the Robert E. Lee statue Saturday afternoon,  in response to more than two months of clashes between Black Lives Matter activists and law enforcement on Richmond city streets.  More than a hundred people were there, as live music played while residents spoke to representatives from the state and the city. 

But a number of the confirmed guests didn’t show, including Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith. 

Many activists, including Darian Carter-Pace, dismissed the event. 

Instead of attending, she joined a small group for a water balloon fight nearby at the area now referred to by protesters as Marcus-David Peters Circle.

“We did not appreciate their location, because we reclaimed the space,” Carter-Pace said. “And we already established that we do not want the cops in our conversation. We want them gone.”

Richmond Police said on Twitter that they are “committed to finding a peaceful way forward through open and inclusive dialogue.” But because of pushback from protesters, the agency said in a Tweet that Chief Gerald Smith decided to wait for another time.

A handful of Democratic state lawmakers who initially confirmed their attendance backed out as well.

People gathered for the event
Members of C.A.M. sang praise songs. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM News)

Richmond resident Sherri Robinson organized the event. She said it was unfortunate that many protesters decided not to be involved in the gathering and that police backed out for safety reasons. 

“I’m glad to have people on board. We have some other persons that we wish would but we can’t twist anybody’s arm and make them do anything,” Robinson said in an interview with VPM. 

But overall she says it was a successful event that she plans to continue in the coming weeks at other locations. 

“We wanted to plant a seed and a seed has been planted. It is a good way to do things,” Robinson said.