‘They hurt us and caused chaos’: Protesters speak out against police handling of demonstrations

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Angry demonstrators were outside of Richmond Police Department headquarters once again Monday night. 

Images and videos sent into 8News show officers in riot gear lined around the police station Monday night. Videos appear to show tear gas and smoke canisters being deployed at the crowd, causing many to scramble for safety. Some protesters say they were hit with rubber bullets.

Following a night of unrest, 8News spoke with two protesters who are speaking out against the way police handled their demonstrations. Maria Maurer shared a photo of her swollen and bruised neck with 8News and said she was shot with a rubber bullet. 

Demonstrators and police can’t seem to agree on how protests are playing out, disputing each other’s claims about who is responsible for inciting violence.

Recounting the events from Monday night, Maurer said protesters began at Monroe Park and walked to the RPD Headquarters to protest the department and its recent actions.

Days earlier, a video showed an RPD SUV being blocked by protesters and eventually driving through the crowd Saturday night.

On Monday, 22-year-old Michaela Hatton was arrested on felony charges for assaulting an officer and conspiring to incite a riot. According to police, Hatton struck an officer in the head with a bullhorn after the officer attempted to stop her from crossing the police line.

Police add that she was warned repeatedly not to cross the police line.

Later that day, Maurer said, “I got shot in the neck by a rubber bullet.” She told 8News her hands were up and she had no weapons on her.

Maria Maurer shared a photo of her swollen and bruised neck with 8News after she says she was shot with a rubber bullet. 

“It was painful,” she said. “It kind of took my whole body and pushed me down.”

The bullet came from an officer about seven feet away, Maurer added. “I went to the hospital last night. They told me that I am lucky where I got shot. It could have hurt all of my throat, could have been prone to more blood clots, could have been a lot worse.”

Maurer is one of several reporting they were hit with rubber bullets on Monday night. Videos of the police and demonstrators encounter show tear gas, flashbangs, and chaos in some of the more intense moments. Other videos show moments of silence where demonstrators stood with their hands up. 

“I am an ally and I don’t speak for Black Lives Matter as an organizer or anything. I just want to give you my perspective as a protester because I feel like the protester’s side has been underrepresented,” said a woman, who did not wish to be identified. “Any form of violence that I have witnessed in the past four marches that I went to, it was all instigated by the police.”

Police have continued to dispute such allegations since the protests began. Richmond Police said three officers were injured Sunday night and had rocks thrown at them. Protesters who spoke with 8News did reveal that some were carrying batons. They also admitted the group didn’t have a permit to assemble and recognizes that city property had been damaged.

Richmond Police added that during the late May riots, most of the violence was coming from people who didn’t reside in the area. Former Richmond Police William Smith, who resigned from his position on Tuesday, June 16, said that more than 50 percent of people arrested for curfew violations one night were not from the city of Richmond. 

“We’re not there for a fight. We’re there, we’re angry, we’re yelling, of course, we’re yelling, of course, we’re angry, but that doesn’t give them a justification to hurt us. That’s what they did. They hurt us and caused chaos,” said the protester who did not want to be identified.

“Everyone’s in military cars and everyone’s in full riot gear.,” Maurer added. “It just to us shows that they’re ready to harm us and force violence when we’re coming with posters and megaphones.”

8News reached out to the demonstration’s organizers for comment. 8News has been told they did not want to speak with our journalist.

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