RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Never-before-released police audio surrounding the 2020 teargassing of peaceful protestors at the site of a Confederate statue in Richmond has been unearthed. The audio release comes just after the terms of a settlement between Richmond police and demonstrators was unsealed on Friday, July 1.
Demonstrators at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond on June 1, 2020, collectively presented two lawsuits after the incident, which was one of several demonstrations that occurred after the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
“Are we clear to use chemical agents?” one officer can be heard asking before the incident.
“10-4,” someone responded.
Several minutes passed before an unintelligible muffled voice from an officer was heard, and someone responded: “Copy, gas deployed 19:36,” which marked the time of the incident.
The recordings will likely be included in an expected bundle of documents, including body-worn video, that will be publicly available at the Library of Virginia. The wealth of information is part of a February settlement between police and demonstrators.
The terms of the deal were ordered sealed until July.
Richmond Police tweeted after the tear-gas incident that “some officers in that area were cut off by violent protesters. The gas was necessary to get them to safety.”
Video showed that was not true.
Friday, two years later, the department retracted this tweeted, and apologized, saying the statement was “false.”
“This was a determined, peaceful protest,” said Andrew Bodoh, the lawyer who helped settle the lawsuits from demonstrators.
Bodoh shared the police audio with 8News after the terms of the settlement were unsealed.
“Let’s get a perimeter around the monument, full 360 perimeter around the monument,” an officer said after gas was first deployed.
“OC is being deployed, OC is being deployed,” someone later said. OC is a type of chemical irritant that’s typically housed in a handheld canister.
“We have to rely on the common sense of police officers, both, to realize that ‘Hey, this is not the time for us to do this.’ But also, for all of the officers standing around to say, ‘No we can’t do this, because this is not justified, this is not right,'” Bodoh said Friday. “And we want the public to be able to see that the officers had that opportunity.”
One day after the teargassing, Mayor Stoney and then-Police Chief William Smith apologized. The chief was then ousted at the end of the month.