RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Tear gas was fired at demonstrators near the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond before the city’s 8 p.m. curfew Monday, the fourth consecutive night of protests in the wake of death of George Floyd. Richmond’s mayor and its police chief apologized after videos surfaced on social media of people being gassed before the curfew was in effect.
Floyd died a week ago today after an encounter with four Minneapolis police officers who were responding to a call that he had allegedly used counterfeit money to purchase cigarettes from a local store. Video taken from the scene showed the officers pin Floyd, who was handcuffed, to the ground for several minutes.
All of the officers involved were fired and the officer seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he complained that he couldn’t breathe, Derek Chauvin, was eventually charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
In order to reassure residents of their commitment “to maintain the trust of the public,” the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and some local police chiefs issued statements on May 29 after charges against Chauvin were announced.
Since then, protests in Richmond and across Virginia have taken place over the last three days. In response to violent protests, including the destruction of businesses, patrol vehicles and a GRTC bus, a state of emergency was declared by Gov. Ralph Northam and an 8 p.m. curfew was put in place in Richmond.
9:45 p.m. — RPD officers “pulled from the field” after video shows them spray protesters from close range
Richmond police responded to a video circulating online of an officer — who is wearing a protective gas mask — running up to protesters and spraying them with gas at close range. In a tweet RPD said that Chief William Smith has reviewed the video and the officers involved have been pulled from the field.
Richmond police sent out a second tweet regarding officers who have been removed from the field after Smith reviewed videos of protesters being gassed.
9 p.m. — Richmond mayor wants to apologize to protesters Tuesday
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney tweeted Monday that he wants to apologize to peaceful protesters who were fired at with gas at City Hall on Tuesday at noon.
“To the peaceful protesters who were gassed tonight, please come. I want to apologize in person,” the mayor said.
8 p.m. — RPD tweets officers “were cut off by violent protestors” before gassing
Before Richmond’s 8 p.m. curfew went into effect, a video — which was shared with 8News — shows protesters with their hands up chanting “Don’t shoot! Hands up!” before tear gas was fired around the Robert. E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.
Richmond police sent a tweet afterwards claiming: “Some RPD officers in that area were cut off by violent protestors. The gas was necessary to get them to safety.”
The FBI sent out a national release on Monday in hopes of getting people to help them with tips and digital media showing any “violent encounters” during protests across the country.
“Accordingly, we are committed to apprehending and charging violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law. The continued violence, potential threat to life, and destruction of property across the United States interferes with the rights and safety of First Amendment-protected peaceful demonstrators, as well as all other citizens,” the bureau said.
7:45 p.m. — Tear gas fired at protesters around Confederate monument in Richmond
Multiple canisters of tear gas have been thrown around the Robert E. Lee monument. Video from 8News’ Ben Dennis shows demonstrators run from the area as tear gas clouds the background.
The tear gas was fired following a tweet from Richmond police regarding claims that protesters were trying to pull down statues.
“To our protestors: You are placing you and others in grave jeopardy by attempting to pull down statues on Monument Ave,” RPD’s tweet said. “They are extremely heavy and would crush anyone standing too close. Please be aware of the danger. Stand down!”
7 p.m. — Protesters make their way to Confederate monuments
Protesters demonstrating in Richmond have gathered around the J.E.B. Stuart monument on Franklin Street as the city’s 8 p.m. curfew — which was implemented in response to violent protests — nears.
Many people have already challenged Richmond’s curfew, with most of the 233 arrests since the protests coming due to curfew violations.
5 p.m. — Demonstrators converge at Monroe Park, peacefully march towards Capitol
On Monday, a protest organized by Black Lives Matter begun in Monroe Park where those in attendance held a moment of silence at 5 p.m. for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, including others “who have lost their lives at the hands of the police,” according to a flyer.
The flyer said protesters planned to march down Main Street to Carytown and loop back to Monroe Park. 8News’ Ben Dennis, who is covering the protest, said the crowd went east on Franklin Street in the direction of Capitol Square — which was closed to the public following Friday’s protests— not to Carytown.
The protest avoided the Capitol grounds, which had a significant police presence facing Franklin St. behind barriers.
Stay with 8News for updates to this developing story.