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Documents, video related to use of tear gas on peaceful protesters released by Richmond police

Police in cloud of chemical agents
Crixell Matthews
Police stand in yellow smoke at the former monument to J.E.B Stuart during protests on June 1, 2020. Police used chemical irritants on protesters at the monuments to Stuart and Robert E. Lee that night about 20 minutes before a city-issued curfew. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Several documents and videos detailing the Richmond Police Department’s use of teargas on peaceful protesters at the former Robert E. Lee monument in June 2020 are now publicly available through the Library of Virginia.

On June 1, 2020, protesters demonstrating against police violence, including the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the killing of Marcus-David Peters by an RPD officer in 2018, congregated around several of Richmond’s former Confederate monuments, including those to Lee and J.E.B Stuart.

At the Stuart monument, a few protesters began to saw at the statue’s legs and attach ropes, seemingly attempting to topple the monument.

One RPD officer, whose name was redacted in the public documents, asked for permission to use teargas against the protesters. While he didn’t receive an initial response, he asked a second time and received confirmation.

RPD later claimed it deployed teargas at the Lee monument because violent protesters were cutting off officers who were trying to get to safety. The department acknowledged as part of a settlement earlier this month that it had fabricated that narrative. That settlement also required RPD to release the documents and video to the Library of Virginia.

On the RPD video

The video released online recently was shot from a police helicopter and focuses on the Stuart monument. As police vehicles arrive, protesters scatter but slowly begin moving back toward the confederate symbol.

The video is narrated by a steady stream of communication with officers discussing forming a perimeter and using teargas on protesters.

"Hit 'em with gas," one officer said.

“Get me a 360. We've got to protect ourselves,” another officer said at about five minutes into the video.

At about 10 minutes into the video, police officers use pepper spray to clear protesters away from the Stuart monument before pushing them down West Franklin Street.

“OC is being deployed,” another officer said in the video.

About 11 minutes into the video, an officer references the city-issued 8 p.m. curfew saying, “We’re going to give these people 20 more minutes, then we’re going to start locking them up.”

While the video includes police communication from that night, the focus on Stuart means the use of teargas on Lee protester isn’t featured. Other materials released as a part of the settlement, including police body-cam footage and audio recordings, are not yet available through the library’s online database. 

Correction: A photo caption has been changed to accurately reflect the actions of law enforcement. VPM News regrets the error.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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