Protests, riots, conversations highlight transformative week in Richmond

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Tear gas deployed on demonstrators in Richmond during 4th consecutive night of protests on June 1, 2020.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It’s been one of the most transformative weeks in Richmond’s long history.

Following the events that led to George Floyd’s death, peaceful protests turned into riots as the nation mourned his death and brought to the forefront the outcry against racial injustice and police brutality.

Pain, anger, stress and loss were among the many emotions felt by Virginians and Americans over the last week. Days later, as peaceful demonstrators still fill city streets, the conversation of change continues.

A week ago Friday, the unrest begins in Richmond. A GRTC bus is burned, businesses damaged and several stores looted.

The next day, more protests, with many peaceful and united throughout the day. As night falls, Petersburg’s Police Chief joins the cordial march for change.

But Richmond is a different story.

Protests turn violent.

“I don’t think lighting a fire and possibly killing a whole row of buildings full of people is actually going to bring justice to a man who died and all the others who died by killing more people sleeping in their beds.”

More wreckage ensues, as protesters turn their attentions to city monuments erected in the memory of the Confederacy.

The next morning, a plea from Richmond Police Chief, saying overnight that rioters blocked authorities from extinguishing an occupied house fire.

“Inside that home was a child,” he exclaimed.

Fortunately, tragedy was avoided.

But the protests continued, in defiance of a newly imposed citywide curfew. The move leads to the arrests of more than 200 people.

On Monday, officials beg demonstrators to stay peaceful – and then hours later, hundreds of protesters are tear-gassed by police.

“While we were sitting on the lawn, we were ambushed, we were ambushed.”

The following day, Governor Ralph Northam speaks out for the first time about the protests-turned-riots, with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and Chief Smith nearby, the latter apologizing for Monday’s tear-gassing incident.

The same day, Stoney makes a promise to march with protesters – a promise he ultimately fulfills.

The action is followed by the expiration of city curfew. But peaceful protests on Monument Avenue and Broad Street continues.

On Thursday, a historic announcement from Northam – the Robert E. Lee monument would come down.

“This is a new chance to write a new chapter in our history, our present history”

One day later, a majority of Richmond’s city council says they will vote in favor of removing other Confederate statues that line Monument Avenue.

And just hours after, demonstrators take the streets again – the seventh day in a row – with history, change and the future on their minds.

“Reflecting on this past seven days, what goes through your mind?” 8News asked a protester. “Honestly, it’s like history is happening all over again. They weren’t being heard then and we want to be heard now.”

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