Protesting in Richmond following the death of George Floyd

By Paula Phounsavath, Contributing Writer

Originally published June 1, 2020.


Protests are taking place around many cities all over the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who was arrested for suspected forgery at a local grocery store in Minneapolis. The officer, Dereck Chauvin, was seen in a bystander video recording kneeing Floyd in the neck on the ground while in handcuffs. Floyd screamed, “I can’t breathe,” as well as, “They’re [the police] going to kill me” while Chauvin told him to, “Relax.” The ordeal happened for about eight minutes until paramedics arrived. Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital. Chauvin has been arrested on charges of third-degree murder and is being investigated by the F.B.I. 


Throughout the weekend protests started off as peaceful with protests gathering to seek justice for the recent death of George Floyd. Protests organized in many areas around Virginia including, Richmond, Hampton Roads, Manassas and more. Protesters marched through their cities with signs and many chanted every so often while marching, “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd.” 


Maxwell, a protestor in Richmond believes that the country is now “at a turning point in today’s society, given the population shift and the rise of social media news cycles. With information spreading rapidly, it is easier than ever to mobilize for a cause — whether it be good or bad.”


Maxwell also believes that police need to be more adequately trained in de-escalating situations and using more non-violent responses. “Also, I believe there needs to be mandatory body cams for all police that physically cannot be turned off during their shift. It should be remote control,” said Maxwell. He also believed that in order to reach a high standard of accountability, police body cam footage should be accessible to everyone involved in a crime because he says it will allow families who have been affected by police brutality to have access to the videos as well.


As the protests progressed later in the night and the early mornings, the protests started to become less peaceful with cars having been set on fire, businesses being looted and destroyed, as well as a man getting shot with life threatening injuries.


A press release statement from the Richmond police chief, Will Smith, said, “It’s unacceptable to the Richmond Police Department, unacceptable to the city of Richmond.” Mayor Levar Stoney implemented curfew for Richmond at 8 p.m. 


Saturday and Sunday morning cleaning crews went to pick up leftover debris, including a tow truck towing the GRTC bus that was destroyed by demonstrators. 


More than 200 demonstrators attended the protest on Friday. Protests started around 8:30 p.m. at Broad and Franklin Street., which was in the heart of the VCU campus and police department. People marched their way to the Governor’s Mansion to voice their distress over the social injustice of minorities. 


On Friday, the protests started off as a peaceful march, but soon turned violent. Demonstrators started throwing rocks into local businesses’ windows, vandalized buses and even lighting a police cruiser on fire outside the Richmond police department. According to NBC12 News Station, a protester “physically touched” a photojournalist for the news outlet by knocking his camera out of his hands. The demonstration lasted until the early hours of Saturday morning. 


Social media users have been voicing their outcry of the protests and police brutality. Most even videotaping the protest as the violence escalates throughout Friday and Saturday nights. One Richmond local, who remains anonymous, was at the protests Sunday morning and told their experiences. They said, “Luckily, it was peaceful.” 


They included, “From seeing videos from last night vs. this morning’s protest, last night was nothing like this morning/afternoon. I was really nervous considering how insane last night was and most of us prepared for getting hit by both police and anti-protesters since there were some last night threatening to shoot.”


Because of the rioting and looting last night, the anonymous source says that they do not condone the rioting, especially towards small/minority businesses. “You’re defeating your purpose by hurting innocent and black lives.” 


However, they also acknowledge and understand that Black lives have been far too oppressed in society by police. “I will continue to advocate my support through peaceful protesting.” 


In regards to what needs to be fixed about social injustice of police brutality, they said, “The best way to fully achieve social justice is for there to be more minorities allowed as higher ups in companies and the government. Minorities need to be heard.”  


Another user on Twitter and former opinion columnist on C-Ville Weekly, Molly Conger, tweeted a long thread of her angle at the protests on Friday night, “A lot of smoke coming out of a dumpster a block from Richmond police headquarters.” Her threads follow the escalation of the rioting among demonstrators and retaliation from the police starting at 10:39 p.m. 


Mayor Levon M. Stoney tweeted, “What you’re seeing around this country and saw in Richmond last night is built up pain. I feel that, and it hurts.” Stoney included, “But two wrongs don’t make a right. If you love this city, you’ll express your pain without hurting others.” Following with the hashtag, ‘#RVAStrong.’ 


Gov. Ralph Northam issued in a statement expressing his distress over Floyd’s death, “This has been such a sad and emotional week, with too many violent and blatant reminders of how far our country is from genuine equity and fair treatment.” Northam also says, “People all over our country are hurting and angry, and rightly so.” 


As the Governor, Northam believes diversity is the greatest strength and that issues like this needs to be continually addressed. 


President Broderick issued a press release last Friday stating, “We send prayers to [George Floyd’s] family as well as our hopes and his tragic death will create not just a nationwide conversation, but a commitment from every member of American society to say, “No More,” to what we observed in Minneapolis or, before that, in Georgia.” 


There will be more protests in the following days to come in the downtown Richmond area. Many other cities in the U.S., including Hampton Roads, are protesting over the death of George Floyd. Cities such as Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Louisville and in D.C. have held protests throughout the weekend in response to the death of George Floyd and police brutality