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‘Conversations at the Monument’ To Bring Residents, Officials Together At Lee Statue Saturday

woman in front of Lee monument
A woman stands before the Lee Monument at a protest in June. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond residents, elected officials and law enforcement will have an opportunity to gather at the Robert E. Lee monument this weekend for a conversation about public safety and race. 

The event, called “Conversations at the Monument,” takes place Saturday from 2-4 p.m. 

Residents and protesters will be given an opportunity to express their concerns and make recommendations for fixing systemic problems that disproportionately affect Black residents. Five “conversation stations” will be set up on topics including education, criminal justice, housing and healthcare. Each will be moderated by a facilitator.  

The end goal, according to a press release from City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, is to “create a framework for change and policy making at the state and local level as legislators prepare for the August 18th General Assembly Special Session and on the city level…” 

Richmond resident Sherri Robinson organized the event. She said she’s trying to give protesters and residents a voice in policy discussions. 

“They realize that those people in power are the people they need to talk to,” Robinson said. “We’ve just got to find some structure and basically have access to talk to them.”

Protesters and local activists have been clear about the changes they want to see in Richmond. They’re calling for the city to re-open the case of Marcus-David Peters, the 24-year-old biology teacher who was shot and killed by Richmond police in 2018, and to create a “Marcus Alert System,” which would require mental health professionals to respond to emergency calls involving a mental health crisis. They also want the city to drop all charges against protesters who have been arrested, create an independent civilian review boardwith subpoena power, move funding out of the police budget and into other services and to release the names of officers who are under investigation for use of force misconduct.

City Council has proposed some legislative reforms, but activists have been skeptical, citing long delays before some bills will be heard.

Confirmed guests at Saturday’s event include Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, Richmond Sheriff Antoinette Irving, members of the Richmond City Council and several democratic state lawmakers, including Senators Jennifer McClellan and Ghazala Hashmi, and Delegates Betsy Carr and Dawn Adams. 

Lynch encourages people who come to wear a mask and dress for the weather. 


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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