‘He’s Preaching Racism’ : Victim of ‘Trump Train’ Incident Says President Stirs up Hate
By Megan Schiffres
November 3, 2020

Hunt says he was shot at near Marcus David Peters Circle.

RICHMOND-Frank Hunt didn’t expect to be shot at when he went to Marcus David Peters Circle Sunday. The 30-year-old Richmond resident was involved in a protest when a ‘Trump Train’ came through. Minutes later, he had to duck to avoid getting shot.

“[He shot] directly at me,” Hunt said. “Point blank range. I dropped to the ground and I rolled. That’s the only thing that saved my life. That and God.”

Hunt said the man who shot him was white, wearing a black mask and driving a white Aldi. The person was part of the ‘Trump Train’ that drove around the area near the Robert E. Lee statue Sunday afternoon. The group then entered the Circle, coming into the area where Black Lives Matter protesters like Hunt have been demonstrating since June.

In the Circle, protesters blocked the parade by standing in front of the assembled cars. Some in the ‘Trump Train’ yelled out white supremacist slogans like “1488” while others shouted obscenities and taunted them. Protesters responded by snatching Trump flags and other merchandise from the outside of their cars, and burning them in the street.

Hunt said he doesn’t understand why the guy shot at him, as he was just walking past.

“I was on the left side [of the vehicle],” Hunt said. “[I] walked past it and guy took the gun out and shot at me. I didn’t engage that vehicle.”

Videos of Sunday’s incident also clearly show Trump supporters pepper spraying unarmed protesters at close range. As the situation escalated, participants in the parade who had not already reached the Circle drove over the medium between the two lanes of Monument Ave to turn around, leaving skid marks in the grass behind them. 

“We’re tired of people shooting at us and thinking it’s ok,” Hunt said. “You don’t have the right. What gives you the right to take a life? Trump supporters shot at me. This is the message that he’s preaching, he’s preaching racism.”

Guns come into the situation

At this point on Sunday, the gathered crowd abruptly scattered after the gunshot rang out across the Circle. There is some confusion about how many shots were fired. In addition to the one Hunt mentioned, around 4 p.m., a bullet was found embedded in a nearby parked car.

That car belonged to Jody Adams, a Richmond photographer who was at the Circle Sunday. He said multiple Trump supporters threatened protesters with guns.

“There were Trump supporters out of their vehicles, chasing the people that had taken their flags off. I saw one guy pull a gun out,” said Adams. “He just kept saying he wanted his flag back. They had his flag and he was just chasing them around the Circle.I don’t know if he chased him with the gun but at one point it was unholstered.”

Richmond city council candidate Mike Dickinson organized the “Trump Train”. While he claims it wasn’t a member of his parade that fired the shot Sunday, Dickinson also feels his supporters would be justified in protecting themselves.

“This was a full-on criminal ambush. People were there attacking,” Dickinson said. “If somebody would have got hit, why were they on the road to begin with? They were on the road being the aggressor.”

“This was a full-on criminal ambush. People were there attacking,” Dickinson said. “If somebody would have got hit, why were they on the road to begin with? They were on the road being the aggressor.” 

Despite the city’s restrictions on guns, Dickinson confirmed that several participants in his parade were carrying and displaying weapons.

“I know people who were riding with me who had CCW (concealed carry weapon) permits that were carrying,” Dickinson said. “It’s a war zone down there. I don’t blame anybody for carrying a gun that’s going to be going into that area.”

Enforcing the gun ban

In a statement to the media late Sunday, Richmond police said they were still investigating the incident, asking anyone with video evidence to come forward. Speaking to Dogwood on Monday, police officials reiterated that the investigation is just starting. 

“Charges have not yet been filed and it is too soon in the investigation to discuss charges at this time,” said Richmond police department Public Information Officer James Mercante.  

Instead, city police put up signs around the Circle Monday, spelling things out in big capital letters. “Firearms prohibited beyond this point,” they read. The notice should be familiar, as Richmond’s city council banned guns from most city events two months ago.

On September 8, the Richmond City Council unanimously passed an ordinance banning guns from local events. The intent, as Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney told the council at the time, was to avoid situations like the one on Sunday from escalating. 

“There is no excuse to brandish a deadly weapon just to prove a point,” Stoney wrote on Twitter prior to the Sept. 8 vote. “Guns and large gatherings don’t mix. This ordinance will make our city safer.”

Specifically, the new ordinance prohibits the “possession, carrying or transportation of any firearms in any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way or any open public space when it is being used by, or is adjacent to, an event that requires a city permit.” 

Except, Sunday’s incident included guns being used, without any penalty.

The ordinance calls for a ban in places “adjacent to” local events. That means alleys, sidewalks, streets and any other public right of way. If there’s a protest downtown and you’re on the road nearby, guns still have to be left at home. 

That’s why the signs are now up around the Circle, to reinforce the earlier council ordinance. But police officials did not respond to questions related to why its officers did not enforce the gun ban Sunday.  

What can you do? 

Where to donate:  

  • 381 Movement, a Richmond nonprofit committed to opposing police brutality that has frequently organized black liberation protests in Richmond over the last year. https://381movement.org/donate-now  
  • Race Capital, an independent media platform that produces activist radio on the Richmond black liberation movement. Leaders of the movement Chelsea Higgs-Wise, Naomi Issac, and Kahlia Harris host the podcast. https://www.racecapitol.com/support-1

Who to call: 

  • Richmond Chief of Police Gerald Smith, (804)646-6700
  • Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, (804) 646-7970

Megan Schiffres is Dogwood’s associate editor. You can reach her at [email protected].

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