Eviction protesters pepper-sprayed, window smashed at courthouse

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — An anti-eviction protest at the John Marshall Courts Building in Richmond ended with pepper spray and vandalism, causing the courthouse to close.

In the early afternoon, protester Malcolm Solomon said some demonstrators attempted to enter the courthouse. He said Richmond City Sheriff’s deputies pinned them down.

MORE: Statewide freeze on evictions expires, new rent relief program begins

“I was amongst the people standing outside of the building requesting that the people who had already entered not be treated like animals and thrown to the ground,” Solomon said.   

Solomon sent 8News a video that he said shows the moment he was pepper-sprayed by deputies at the courthouse door. Several other protesters stood up against the building, screaming at the officers to stop.

Solomon said they were given no explanation. “Just that you can’t enter a public building but it’s a building for the people so I don’t understand that,” he said. “I think they should begin to think of more humane ways to work with the people of the city.”

This comes as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia and faith leaders continue to condemn law enforcement’s use of chemical irritants against civilians.

Other videos on social media show protesters attempting to smash courthouse windows. At least one window was shattered.

Debbie Pohlig said she was at the courthouse with her daughter around 1pm when ‘an unruly crowd’ of protesters began banging on the windows. She said they were escorted into an office for protection, where they stayed for about 30 minutes. Based on her experience, Pohlig said officers reacted appropriately. 

“It was really very scary…that is not the way to go about getting into a courthouse,” Pohlig said. “There is a way to get your point across and I just think they put other people in danger.”

The John Marshall Courts Building was closed to the public following the incident while law enforcement investigated the vandalism.

The Richmond City Sheriff’s Office hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

8News has yet to confirm that any arrests were made.

The crowd arrived at the courthouse around 11 a.m. to protest evictions after a statewide freeze on proceedings expired on Sunday, June 28. Groups like the Richmond Tenants Union and the New Virginia Majority are calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to extend the eviction moratorium using an executive order.

“It doesn’t make any sense to end the moratorium on evictions in the peak of the pandemic,” protester Claire Pickard said. “Eviction is another type of violence against black communities.”

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