The afternoon sun illuminates the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Ave in Richmond, Va., Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. Lee Statue Stands Over Monument Avenue
The afternoon sun illuminates the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Ave in Richmond, Va., Monday, Oct. 19, 2020.

Gunfire damaged one vehicle and someone pepper sprayed a woman.

RICHMOND-City police closed down multiple intersections in Richmond after a “Trump Train” clashed with local residents near the Robert E. Lee statue. Intersections at Monument Ave. and Meadow St., Monument Ave. and Lombardy St., Park Ave. and Allen Ave., West Grace St. and Allen Ave. are all closed to most traffic until further notice.

“Local traffic and emergency vehicles will be able to travel through the area,” Richmond police said in a statement to media. “Once normal traffic conditions resume, the community will be notified.”

Officers shut down the intersections after incidents Sunday afternoon around the statue. Since September, mobile political rallies called “Trump Trains” have repeatedly come into the city from Henrico County. They typically set up in a portion of the city, plant flags and start yelling in support of President Donald Trump. This time, however, the participants stayed in their vehicles and things got heated.

“The mobile rally drove to the Lee Monument circle at Monument and Allen avenues and confrontations with individuals at the circle ensued,” the police statement said. “Some of the vehicles left the roadway and crossed grassy medians near the area.”

According to the police timeline, just after 4 p.m., officers were called out to the 1800 block of Monument Ave., near the statue, to investigate a vehicle that had been hit by gunfire. No one was in the vehicle at the time. Minutes later at 4:18 p.m., a woman at the circle told police she had been pepper sprayed by an unknown individual driving by.

Richmond police said that officers cleared the area and then shut down the intersections. They expect to “maintain a presence” there throughout the night and into Monday morning.

White supremacist speech used by some

Multiple videos from people at the incident show some people shouting “1488” as they drive by. According to the Anti-Defamation League, that number is a popular symbol for white supremacists. The first part of the symbol, the number 14, is a shortened version of the white supremacist “14 Words” slogan. The slogan states “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

The second part of the symbol, the number 88, stands for “Heil Hitler”. Why 88? Because, the ADL says, H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

“Together, the numbers form a general endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs,” the ADL’s website states. “As such, they are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement – as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses.”

Richmond police said in their statement the investigation is ongoing. They ask anyone with videos or photos of the incidents to call the local Crime Stoppers at (804)-780-1000.

This marks the second time since September that a “Trump Train” in Virginia has been linked to a confrontation. On September 19, a “Trump Train” arrived at the Fairfax County Government Center as people lined up to vote early. During the morning, the group showed up waving Trump/Pence flags and American flags, screaming at voters as they walked by. They chanted “four more years” and formed a line. Voters had to walk around the group in order to get inside the early voting site.

It became enough of an issue that election officials moved voters inside. They also provided escorts for anyone that felt intimidated by the group and brought in extra security. 

Incident comes days after Lee ruling

The incidents come less than a week after a Richmond judge ruled that state officials could tear down the Lee statue. Judge W. Reilly Marchant put his own ruling on hold, however, due to the plaintiffs’ appeal. The statue currently has to remain in place until the Virginia Supreme Court decides if they want to hear the case.

If they refuse to hear the case, the injunction will be dissolved. State officials can remove the statue at that point. If they agree to hear it, then the injunction remains until the Supreme Court issues a ruling.

It also comes two days after a group of Trump supporters surrounded and followed a Biden campaign bus in Texas. Even though the incident is under investigation, Trump posted on Twitter that he didn’t think they did anything wrong.

“In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong,” Trump wrote. “Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!”

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at brian@couriernewsroom.com.