RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — State and city leaders came together Saturday afternoon for a unity event, “Conversations at the Monument,” where members of the community could share their opinions with officials.
The goal of the event was to help legislators prepare for the General Assembly’s Special Session, which starts on August 18. Organizer Lawrence Robinson told 8News he also set out to facilitate community discussions on racial injustice issues.
“We want to open up a dialogue with the people and sit down like civilized human beings and adults and talk this out,” Robinson said.
Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, Councilman Andreas Addison, and Councilman Mike Jones participated, discussing topics like the city’s budget and the Marcus-David Peters case with citizens.
While the event remained peaceful, albeit some tense moments between city council members and residents, some participants like Cory Webb say they noticed the absence of other city leaders and the Richmond Police Department.
“The police chief and a couple other people didn’t show up,” he said. “So we’re kind of disappointed.”
Richmond Police Department tweeted after the event that Chief Gerald Smith decided to “wait for another time” following indications that officers were not welcomed. Richmond Police then tweeted a screenshot of a Twitter user planning a “water balloon fight,” instead of a conversation.
Despite this, Councilman Jones told 8News that residents want to be heard.
“Because I’m the one that’s here, because Stephanie is the one that’s here, we’re taking a lot of the tongue lashing that they want to give to others in the city,” the councilman said.
8News spoke with Councilwoman Kim Gray, who did not attend the event. She told 8News she would rather have smaller meetings with concerned residents because she feels the dialogue would be more productive in that setting.
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