RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A group of about 300 people converged around the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond Saturday to protest in support of and against the possible removal of Confederate statues in the city.
It seems, for now, that police preparation and pleas for the public to avoid the area paid off in that only a handful of arrests were made and no injuries were reported as of 6:15 p.m.
Photos and videos from early in the morning show barricades, and well-armed police lining the area surrounding the prominent statue.
A large crowd gathered shortly before 9 a.m. at the recently unveiled Maggie Walker Monument located on Broad Street in what was called a “Racial Justice” rally. Speakers from the Richmond Peace Education Center who helped organize the event urged participants to forgo the sort of violence seen in Charlottesville when confronting Confederate monument supporters.
Early in the rally, Adria Scharf, the director of the Richmond Peace Education Center described why the group had gathered.
“The idea of southern heritage, it is a heritage and a history that has been built on the disenfranchisement, violence, and oppression of African American people,” Scharf said. “The extreme and unconscionable racial disparities that we see in the Richmond region — from poverty to school quality to community safety to life expectancy– those continuing racial inequities are directly rooted in that history.”
From there, the large gathering marched down Broad Street toward the monuments, before reconvening at the JEB Stuart Monument at the corner of Lombardy Avenue and Monument Avenue.
Once the formal peace rally ended, many participants moved from there towards the Robert E. Lee monument just a block away, where a group of about a dozen Confederate monument supporters had convened.
Marchers were stopped before being allowed into the barricade around the monument to prevent participants from carrying sticks, flag poles, and other possible weapons into the designated area.
After about an hour of interactions between the groups, the group of Confederate monument supporters were escorted out of the area by police.
Assembly participants continued to march through Richmond after the pro-monument faction left and traveled down West Broad Street through VCU’s campus, onto Belvidere Street, onto West Main Street west of Belvidere, before turning back up Lombardy Street back to the J.E.B. Stuart monument.
Two people were detained near the monument when they entered the area wearing masks, which had been forbidden by police earlier in the week. It is not clear at this time whether the two suspects were arrested or charged with anything.
By about 4:30 p.m., most protesters had cleared out of the area, but a few small groups have dispersed throughout the city who continue to voice their viewpoints.
Police said in a statement that they will continue to keep a large presence throughout the city overnight to monitor any more protests that may occur. In the meantime, they have begun to remove the barricades from the area around the Lee Monument so that traffic can resume its normal pattern as soon as possible.
By 6:15 p.m., police said that they had arrested seven people in connection with the protests. Four of these people were charged with wearing a mask in public, one was charged with disorderly conduct, another was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and the last was charged with two counts of possession of a stolen weapon and possession of a concealed weapon.
Here’s a list of the people who were arrested, provided by Richmond Police:
- Deante L. Watkins, 18, of the 1000 block of Althea Parkway in Richmond, was charged with two counts of possession of a stolen weapon and possession of a concealed weapon
- Jabari A. Robinson, 21, of the 4000 block of Old Mountain Road in Roanoke, was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
- Brittany D. Bush, 29, of the 00 block of Jefferson Street in Petersburg, was charged with disorderly conduct
- Caroline Hill, 24 of the 6900 block of McLean Park Manor Court in McLean, Virginia was charged with wearing a mask in public
- Thomas W. Rockett, 21, of the 2000 block of Highcourt Lane in Herndon, Virginia, is charged with wearing a mask in public
- Corissa C. Duffey, 25, of the 100 block of Springdale Road in Stockbridge, Georgia is charged with wearing a mask in public
- Ian M. Gerson, 32, of the 00 block of Hart Street in Brooklyn, New York was charge with wearing a mask in public
They encourage residents to report any suspicious activity by telling an officer or calling 911.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.