RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s new interim police chief says that while officers will respect protester’s First Amendment rights, some protester’s actions continue to put everyone at risk.

Richmond Police said on Friday that the department has the authority to declare protests that become violent unlawful.

“We must address that,” said Richmond Police Interim Chief William “Jody” Blackwell, in a statement Friday.

Richmond Police are reminding residents that the department has the authority to declare protests that become violent, dangerous, or disruptive as unlawful assemblies. Virginia state code gives officers the authority to make arrests for failing to disperse, the department added.

“While several unlawful assembly declarations have been announced in recent weeks, officers have refrained from making arrests,” RPD said in a statement. “But the danger of personal injury and on-going willful and wanton property damage cannot be tolerated.”

Richmond Police released the following:

  • Here is what to expect: When the decision is made to declare an unlawful assembly, repeated announcements are made by bullhorn to alert everyone it is time to leave.
  • This is what will be announced:  “This is been deemed an unlawful assembly. Please disperse. Failure to disperse will result in arrest and/or exposure to chemical agents.”

The reminder comes after city police alerted residents that a large gathering is expected at the Robert Lee Monument Friday for a candlelight vigil.

Fatal Arrest Fallout