RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Two people have been charged with assaulting Richmond police officers after an incident Thursday morning near the circle around the Robert E. Lee statue.
Richmond police said that officers were assaulted at 8 a.m. as the city tried to get those in the area “to comply with the state and city ordinances that govern activities in that public area.” Several arrests were made and the officers suffered minor injuries.
The officers were assaulted when they removed items that were deemed illegal, according to police. In the past, those in the area were allowed to fix any illegal action.
Police used pepper spray and a stun gun during the incident and two individuals, identified by police as Justin Killough and Kadia Taylor, were arrested and charged with assaulting an officer.
Videos sent to 8News show one man being restrained by four officers, one of whom is using a stun gun on the individual, and pushing between authorities and those in the area, including a moment when a woman appears to be grappling with an officer.
A task force made of members from several city departments, including police, fire, public works and public utilities, was formed “in response to community concerns, on-going illegal activity, and health concerns,” according to Richmond police.
The group has been tasked with communicating with those who have occupied the area near the circle at Monument and Allen avenues, some of whom have set up tents.
“For more than 60 days, the area in an around the circle has been occupied by demonstrators, some in violation of ordinances,” police said in a release. “They have set up tents, taken electrical power, engaged in commerce without permits, displayed videos and played loud music.”
When asked about the incident during Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, Mayor Levar Stoney said that he agrees with the task force’s objective but did not get into any specifics.
“A task force of health, and law enforcement agencies, alongside other government entities, gave notification to those who have gathered at the circle, of some things that were brought to our attention that were considered public safety or public health hazards,” the mayor said. “Today, they arrived, that, that task force arrived on site to rectify that, to ensure that these items would be brought into compliance. I do agree with that, I think, you know we want obviously folks to express their First Amendment rights but we also want, we also need compliance when it comes to public health and public safety matters.”
Rashawn Dawkins and his wife set up the area weeks ago to give out free food and drinks. “We had the tent set up and tables and chairs,” Dawkins told 8News. He said police came out to the area Wednesday night and told the group they could not camp there. Dawkins said they broke down their tents, but set them back up early Thursday morning.
Dawkins said they were told, “Either y’all go now or we’re gonna take everything and throw it away.” He said his wife was speaking with the officers and turned to grab some of their items to take away.
“As she was grabbing it to go back, the captain pushed her to the ground. She had an asthma attack. The ambulance came,” said Dawkins. That’s when he said everything unfolded. In a news release, Richmond police said an individual present was treated for a medical condition.