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Richmond Protests Turn To Mourning Friday On Breonna Taylor’s Birthday

Woman at microphone
SLIDESHOW: Aurora Higgs speaks at a protest remembering Breonna Taylor on what would have been her 27th birthday. (Photo: Coleman Jennings/VPM News)

More than a thousand protesters took to the streets in Richmond Friday night, the eighth day of demonstrations in the city. 

As one group of protesters marched from Monroe Park to the Richmond City Jail, some carried purple birthday balloons. They started their protest with a vigil to honor Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician in Louisville who was killed by police executing a no-knock warrant. Taylor would have been 27 years old on Friday. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/426594264.jpg?itok=j2peGJeU","video_url":"https://vimeo.com/426594264","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}

Long-time activist Art Burton speaks about the recent protests. (Photo: Coleman Jennings/VPM News)

Organizer Kalia Harris said it was important protesters lift up Taylor’s name on Friday as media narratives center around the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“When you look at police brutality, black women have always been on the front lines [fighting for] justice, even in Ferguson and Baltimore,” Harris said. “Even when we are going up for cis men like George Floyd, it’s important to remember that [black women] are also strongly affected by police brutality, and we need to go up for ourselves, too.”

As the group of protesters marched through downtown Richmond they sang “Happy Birthday” to Taylor. Once they arrived at the jail, various speakers took turns on the microphone. 

Art Burton, a verteran Richmond activist, said the city is now full of businesses and people who say they believe black lives matter, something he credited to the protesters. Burton also wanted to dispel the notion that the protests were the result of mostly white agitators, unrepresentative of communities of color.

“What’s wrong with y’all running around the city standing up for black people,” Burton asked the crowd sarcastically. “Evidently, the descendants of enslaved Africans in this city were very happy before y’all showed up, in spite of the fact that 50 percent of them live in poverty.”

Meanwhile, at the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, a vigil was underway. Signs were set up earlier in the day with photos and stories of victims of racism and police brutality: Tamir Rice, Keith Lamont Scott, Gregory Gunn, George Floyd, Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, Trayvon Martin. 

There was almost no police presence at the monument Friday night. It was a stark contrast to Monday, when Richmond Police fired tear gas at peacefully assembled protesters before curfew began.

On the western facing side of the monument, a large photo of Taylor was placed up onto the Lee statue and flowers were laid next to it. The statue has been a rallying point for protests in recent days, some that ultimately turned violent

But on Friday about 1,000 people held small candles, alternating between silence and listening. Protest leaders spoke of love, forgiveness and healing. 

“What are you here for,” a speaker asked. “Love,” the crowd responded. 

Chants briefly returned to “No justice, no peace” before the large group at the Robert E. Lee statue marched to Monroe Park to meet up with other protesters returning from the jail. 

 

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