Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday to rally against the prospect of people being evicted as the coronavirus rages on.

A protest against the lifting of the moratorium on evictions put in place in Virginia due to the coronavirus pandemic ended with deputies releasing chemical irritants on the crowd and a courthouse window being smashed.

The incident came after hundreds of demonstrators in Richmond were seen chanting “Eviction is violence” and other slogans as they marched from the John Marshall Courts Building to the Executive Mansion on Wednesday, news outlets reported.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, protesters who took to the streets were concerned about “the prospect of people ending up homeless as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.”

Activist and organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center, Omari Al-Qadaffi said at the start of the rally on Wednesday that people should push back against the idea that housing isn’t a human right. “We would never say that about food or water, but for some reason we’ve allowed corporatists and people that want to make money off others have us believe that it’s OK to evict people, to put entire households on the street,” he said, the Times-Dispatch reported.

The ban on evictions was originally put in place in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and was extended earlier in June. But an order issued by the state’s high court last week said courts may resume hearing eviction cases Monday.

On Wednesday, Richmond sheriff’s deputies wrestled two protesters to the ground after they entered the court building and attempted to stage a sit-in demonstration, NBC 12 reported. When other demonstrators tried to make their way inside the building, deputies released the chemical irritants into the crowd, the news outlet reported.

That’s when demonstrators threw water bottles at the deputies, and an object was thrown into the courthouse that smashed its window.

The Richmond Sheriff’s Office told the Times-Dispatch two people arrested during the protest were later released on bond. Deputies did not confirm the total number of arrests.

After the court’s decision, Gov. Ralph Northam announced his administration is putting an initial $50 million in federal coronavirus-relief funds toward housing assistance.

Additional reporting by Regina Mahone.