One year later: How George Floyd’s death impacted Richmond

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — May 25, 2021, marks one year since George Floyd took his last breath in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. The viral video of former police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck sparked outrage across the country — including Richmond.

Now, a year later, the city’s face is forever changed.

Here’s a look back at the events that unfolded during months of unrest in the city.

On May 29, 2020, four days after Floyd’s death, the protests in Richmond began as hundreds gathered downtown with signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” and “I can’t breathe.”

That night, waves of people made their way to Virginia’s State Capitol; however, 8News reported that Capitol Police prevented them from entering and from there, they went to Richmond Police Department headquarters.

Near Richmond police headquarters, a police vehicle was set ablaze — Virginia State Police confirmed it was not one of their vehicles. Witnesses in the area also reported a dumpster fire and a GRTC bus was set on fire at the intersection of West Broad Street and Belvidere Street.

Several businesses were also broken into and defaced.

Demonstrations continued for weeks as tensions between police and protestors grew.

On June 1st, videos surfaced of Richmond’s Police Department deploying tear gas on a crowd of protestors along Monument Avenue.

8News reported that a gray truck pulled up to a police barricade and it appeared that a Richmond police officer saw the truck, turned and lobbed tear gas at the vehicle.

Once tear gas was deployed, a chain of events occurred where more gas was deployed, this time against the peaceful group of protesters gathered at the monument.

The crowd of demonstrators fled from the area around the monument to avoid the tear gas, and in a video captured by Virginia Public Media and shared with 8News, an officer is shown running after people and spraying them directly with what appears to be tear gas.

Days later, then Richmond Police Chief Will Smith, apologized for the incident. He promised that his department would review police use of force and crowd management.

As protests went on, the focus in Richmond shifted to Confederate monuments and other statues with racist ties. On June 11, 2020, rioters toppled the Jefferson Davis Statue by tying ropes around its legs and pulling it from its stone pedestal onto the pavement. Four other statues were also torn down by rioters the same way.

On July 1, 2020, Mayor Stoney ordered the removal of all Confederate statues from city land. Hours later, the Stonewall Jackson statue along Monument Avenue was taken down from its concrete pedestal and hauled away.

In the following week, crews removed Matthew Fontaine Maury, Joseph Bryan, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument statue, JEB Stuart, and the “Miss Confederacy” statue on top of a pedestal at the Davis monument.

Currently, the Robert E. Lee monument is the only Confederate statue still standing along Monument Avenue. However, in the year following Floyd’s death, the symbolism surrounding the statue has shifted as some now refer to it as “Marcus David Peters Circle.”

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