Mayor speaks out after Occupy Richmond protesters kicked out

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - For the first time, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones weighs in on the Occupy Richmond protest.

Protesters no longer occupy Kanawha Plaza after police kicked them out early Monday morning. The Occupy Richmond tents are gone and now a plastic barrier is in place to keep people out of Kanawha Plaza.

Jones says he's willing to meet with the Occupy Richmond protesters to hear what they have to say.

Nearly two hundred police officers swept through the Occupy Richmond tent city. The two week "occupation" ended as police used officers on horseback and bulldozers to clear everyone out.

Jones says Richmond Police officers handled the eviction responsibly compared to some of the more violent clashes in other parts of the country.

"We want to show restraint and balance between their First Amendment rights and our responsibility to enforce the law," Jones said.

The mayor says the occupiers are free to protest as long as they don't break the law.

Megan Neal called Kanawha Plaza home for nearly two weeks. She stopped by Tuesday for the first time since she and other demonstrators were forced to leave.

"This place is still left as this hollow shell," Neal said.  "I just came back to see if there were any traces of anything. I guess it was just being sentimental."

She says she's pleasantly surprised to hear the mayor is willing to meet with protesters like her.

"I'd just really like to know how he's sleeping at night with everything that's happened," she said.

Neal says the mayor hasn't heard the last of the Occupy Richmond movement.

"He kind of added fuel to the fire," Neal said.  "(He) went about this the wrong way if he was really trying to shut us down because all he did was inspire us."

The mayor did stop by Kanawha Plaza once to talk with the protesters.

No word yet on when or where a second meeting might happen.

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