Richmond City Mayor & Chief of Police meet with large crowd after tear gas used on protesters

Updated: Jun. 2, 2020 at 3:32 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond City Mayor Levar Stoney met with a large group of protesters to apologize after Richmond police used tear gas along Monument Avenue during the fourth night of demonstrations.

Richmond Police originally said they had to deploy gas on protesters near the Robert E. Lee monument after police officers were ‘cut off’ by violent protesters.

However, shortly after, the department’s Twitter page posted another update stating, “Chief Smith just reviewed video of gas being deployed by RPD officers near the Lee Monument and apologizes for this unwarranted action. These officers have been pulled from the field. They will be disciplined because their actions were outside dept protocols and directions given.”

Stoney also saw the videos circulating on social media and posted on his pages that he would issue a public apology Tuesday at noon outside City Hall.

Both Stoney and Chief Will Smith met with boos by hundred of people as they walked out with someone shouting, "we don’t want your apology, we want your resignation.”

The frustration was loud and clear as protesters demanded answers from the Mayor and Chief of Police.

“Fire them, fire them, fire them,” the crowd chanted, referring to the officers who used tear-gas Monday night, 30 minutes before curfew.

"It was wrong about what happened yesterday,” Stoney said. “I apologize for that. It should have never happened… It hurts. I've been hurting for the past 72-96 hours."

"I shared with the Mayor last night that I am ultimately the one responsible," Chief Smith said. "I share with each of you all a commitment that we continue to work together to try to make this a better society.” Stoney said disciplinary actions would be taken against the officers, however what kind of discipline is unknown.

“What I hear from you all is the pain and anger that I feel in my bones as well," Stoney added.

Despite the nearly 90-minute gathering, many of these men and women walked away unfulfilled, still left with many questions.

“His responses meant nothing to me,” said Mikhail Smith.

“No, I didn’t get answers," said Natalie André. “I felt like it was scripted, I felt like he was just saying it because ‘a lot of people are putting pressure on us so let’s say it’.”

André was one of the hundreds of protesters on Monument Avenue Monday night who were tear-gassed before curfew.

“I walk because this little girl was tear gassed last night,” she said. “There were kids, tear gassed yesterday.”

“I ask, why are we here? Love!” said Jared Ivey. “That’s the answer right there. It’s not because we hate police. We hate what police are doing to the people we love.”

Over the last few nights Richmond police have used tear gas to control the crowds, but Mikhail Smith said he was pepper sprayed while leaning out his window.

“Everyone has seen the video, I was sprayed in my apartment,” he said. “I asked the cops to come back to come spray me again. I wanted accountability, I wanted to hear their voices, I wanted to ask why.”

However, after speaking to Chief Smith directly at Tuesday’s gathering, he said he didn't get an answer.

“I don’t think he was sincere at all,” Smith said. “All he said was oh, I’m sorry, oh, I’m sorry, very nonchalantly the entire time. We pressured him, they got scared. We are not violent.”

While there has been some violence over the last few nights, many men and women in this group want change and accountability. “We’re not angry, we’re not angry at all, we’re just fed up and enough is enough," André said. At one point during the gathering outside City Hall, Chief Smith and Stoney were seen kneeling along with the crowd.

Stoney also spoke directly with a young girl who was scared about getting tear-gassed for standing too close.

**Warning: This video contains graphic language**

After Stoney and Smith went inside, several people continued to speak and eventually took the crowd to the state capitol where they marched through the streets of Richmond chanting, “No Justice, No Peace,” among other things.

Stoney and Smith also promised to march with the crowd Tuesday night in solidarity.

“If he comes out tonight and he stands with us tonight at the Capitol, I think things can start de-escalating,” said Frank Hunt.

“Words cannot make this right, and words cannot restore the trust broken this evening,” Mayor Stoney said on his Twitter account.

REWATCH the full meeting here:

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