Last week, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who stuck his knee in Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Americans have been protesting nationwide after Floyd’s death, opposing continued racial injustice and police brutality. Our state was no exception, with protests happening from Richmond to Blacksburg, as Virginians demand justice for victims affected by police violence, specifically Black people.
While reports of protests turning violent got a lot of coverage, the vast majority of gatherings in the commonwealth brought together Virginians of all colors and ages, in solidarity against police brutality. Below we round up details on some of the peaceful protests in the state.
On Monday afternoon, protesters in Blacksburg hit the streets to make their voices heard. The peaceful demonstration started on the corner of Main Street and College Avenue before noon and moved towards the Blacksburg Police Department. They silently kneeled for nine minutes in Floyd’s honor. Afterwards, the crowd traveled back downtown and through Virginia Tech before returning at the police station.
Protester Anthony Lovelace said to WSLS, “There is a bigger cause than what you can do at the moment. If we can all come together and have a big conclusion where amendments, laws and changes start to happen, that’s what I want.”
The Franklin Police Department thanked protesters in the city for hosting a peaceful gathering that brought together “local clergy, several local elected officials, sheriff, police chief and city leaders.” Protesters marched down Armory Drive, starting and ending the protest with a prayer.
The city of Fredericksburg has been the site of largely peaceful protests for days, reports Fredericksburg.com. Police marched with the protesters on Tuesday through downtown Fredericksburg, joining in chants. Before the march, the police closed off a route for marchers before the event.
Anthony Footé, one of the organizers of the event, said he invited the police and members of the Fredericksburg City Council to participate.
“This is a battle won,” Footé told Fredericksburg.com. “The police in our city are behind us.”
The Virginian-Pilot reports that a peaceful group of 100 marched in downtown Norfolk Tuesday night. The group wound through city streets, ending up at the city’s Confederate statue on Main Street. The protesters led chants against police brutality and dispersed at 11:30 p.m. without any skirmishes with police.
Virginia’s capital has been covered for looting, but the majority of the time the city has been a hub of peaceful protests over the past week. Demonstrators have marched everywhere from Brown’s Island to Monument Avenue.
On the fourth night of protests, the Richmond Police Department deployed tear gas on a group of peaceful demonstrators who had gathered near a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. A video online showed a line of protesters who appeared to be yards away from officers while they were peacefully in the grass near the statue. One video appeared to show an officer chase and spray a protester.
This occurred approximately 20 minutes before the city’s mandated curfew of 8 p.m.
While initially defending these actions, the Richmond Police Department decided to discipline the officers involved upon the police chief inspecting the video.
In response, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney apologized to protesters on Twitter and then joined them in a march on Tuesday. When asked why he was marching, Stoney responded:
“Because number one, I’m a man of my commitment. I apologized today for what happened with the tear-gassing and so, they asked me to walk with them and here I am. I feel and support the pain that they’re feeling. As a black man, I’ve experienced some of what we’ve been seeing in the images and I’m here to express my opinion as well.”
The mayor walked with protesters at 6 p.m. from the Capitol with a sea demonstrators that reportedly took up over five blocks of Broad Street. In an interview with the Richmond Times Dispatch, the mayor vowed to introduce policies that would reform the city’s police.
On Tuesday, The Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference held a rally at 6 p.m. at Mt. Trashmore. Over 100 people walked to the top of Mt. Trashmore to “lift up our voices and to be silent no more…black lives not only matter…they are equal”. Several elected leaders ,including former Gov. Bob McDonnell and Rep. Elaine Luria, were in attendance.
“We cannot continue to stand by and not act,” said Luria to WTKR.