Richmond Police Say ‘No Gun’ Rule is Only a Rule Sometimes

Richmond police pull over members of the local Black Lives Matter chapter on Election Night. Photo by Dogwood's Meg Schiffres.

By Megan Schiffres, Julia Raimondi

November 24, 2020

RICHMOND-Richmond Police say the city’s gun ban didn’t apply to a protest that happened Saturday.

Members of the Boogaloo Boys, an extremist white supremacist and Neo-Nazi organization, marched through parts of the area, armed with assault rifles.

This comes a week after supporters of President Trump held a similar protest, called ‘Stop the Steal,’ in response to Joe Biden’s election. It was led by Owen Shroyner, host of a far-right website which spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories called Infowars. And once again, some of the people involved carried guns.  

The issue here stems around Richmond’s gun ban, which the city council adopted in September. The law makes it illegal to carry a firearm of any kind at both permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit in the city. Richmond ordinances say any events that are advertised, use amplified sound, or impact traffic require a permit.

It applies to any city-owned building, any public park owned or operated by the city. It also covers any recreation or community center facility operated by the city, and in any public street, road, alley, or sidewalk or public right-of-way. 

Richmond police took no action to enforce the law and did not arrest anyone present at the protests. Instead, people observed law enforcement officers chatting amicably with heavily armed white supremacist protesters. 

Richmond Police Respond

According to the Richmond Police Department, the gun ban didn’t apply to the demonstrators who protested in Richmond on Saturday. 

“This is because conduct of the gathering did not meet the threshold for a violation of the city ordinance prohibiting firearms during permitted events, or events that would otherwise require a permit,” the Richmond Police Public Affairs Department said in a statement to Dogwood. 

Police officials said because the protest stopped on state-owned property and followed traffic rules, it did not need a permit. 

“On Saturday, the stationary portion of the event gathered on Bank Street, which is controlled by the state and does not currently require a permit,” the Richmond Police Public Affairs Department said. “When the group left Bank Street, they walked through parts of the city, observed all applicable traffic ordinances and did not obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic. As such, the group’s conduct did not rise to the level of requiring a permit, so the city ordinance was not applicable to the event on Saturday.” 

RELATED: No Violence on Election Night, as ‘Trump Train’ and Protesters Miss Each Other

‘They Should Have Had A Permit’

According to the Program Service Manager for the Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation Priscilla Wright, the event on Saturday should have had a permit.

Wright is responsible for receiving permit applications for special events in Richmond.

“They should have had a permit application submitted,” Wright said. “However, I want to make note that there have been no applications for protest permits since May.”

Additionally, white supremacist protesters did not only occupy state-owned property when they demonstrated Saturday night. The “Stop the Steal” rally marched around the Capitol grounds on 8th St. and on E. Main St.

The armed protest moved from state-owned property to public streets, roads, alleys, or sidewalks owned by the City. Based on Richmond’s ordinances, it therefore appeared to violate the gun ban.

People also filmed protesters motionlessly congregating on Main Street at the corner of E. Main Street and 10th St. 

This Isn’t The First Time

This marks the third time since September there’s been issues with enforcing the ban.

Participants in all three of these rallies displayed and carried firearms during the protests.

During the first rally on November 1, called the “Trump Train”, participants shot at, tear gassed, and almost ran over black liberation protesters.

No one has been charged with the attempted murder and assault of black liberation protesters.

Police on the scene did not intervene when these assaults occurred.

Participants in the second “Trump Train”, which rolled through Virginia on November 3, also carried and displayed firearms. No one interfered with the second “Trump Train” either, despite their violation of the gun ban.

Black liberation counter-protesters also displayed and carried firearms when they demonstrated on November 3 in Richmond. 

The second ‘Trump Train’ drove by Richmond police officers without being pulled over for open-carrying weapons.

Immediately after, police pulled over and interrogated black liberation protesters who were open-carrying. 

Though they questioned black liberation protesters about their possession of firearms, Richmond police did not use the gun ban to arrest black liberation protesters that night.

However, the police never stopped the ‘Trump Train’. 

State-owned Property Hasn’t Stopped Richmond Police Before

Marcus-David Peters Circle is a state-owned property. Like Bank Street, it is under the jurisdiction of the Capitol Police. 

Richmond police say they couldn’t intervene in the “Stop the Steal” rally because it was located on state-owned property. However, Richmond police have repeatedly arrested, tear gassed, shot rubber bullets at, beaten, and maced black liberation protesters demonstrating at or around the Circle. 

The Capitol Police and Virginia State Police have assisted the Richmond police in assaulting protesters at the Circle this summer. 

They have also attacked and arrested black liberation protesters in the Circle without the presence of state-level law enforcement. One of these incidents includes the Richmond Police’s tear gassing of peaceful protesters on June 1. 

Meg Schiffres is Dogwood’s associate editor and Julia Raimondi is a freelancer reporting for Dogwood. You can reach them at [email protected].

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there was just one protest involving people armed with guns. There were two in the Richmond, with the second held a week earlier.

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