RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A woman was arrested and charged over the weekend with assaulting an officer during protests that occurred outside Richmond Police Headquarters on Grace Street.
According to court documents, 22-year-old Michaela Hatton has been charged with the assault and battery of a police officer and conspiring with others to incite a riot.
Richmond police said Hatton repeatedly crossed the police line after being told not to, and “when an RPD officer attempted to stop her, the suspect struck the officer in the head with a bullhorn.”
Police also said that during the booking process, Hatton refused to give her personal information, which is required by law.
Hatton was arraigned on Monday morning on the felony charges, released on her own recognizance, and due back in court on July 14.
“At her hearing Monday, the judge also banned her from any actions tending to incite criminal activity,” police said.
Richmond police said Hatton is charged in connection to the protests outside of Richmond Police Headquarters Sunday night, where protesters say that tear gas was used on them.
Richmond City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch said she was called down to the protest to gather information on Hatton’s arrest on behalf of some of her constituents rallying there. She says about 15-20 minutes after she arrived is when police started using tear gas on the crowds.
"It was not warranted at all. And I actually looked across the picket line and I said “What are you all doing? Why are you doing this? Why?” said Lynch.
Other reports and social media indicate that protesters had thrown objects like water bottles at officers. Richmond’s police chief confirms rocks and other objects were thrown at his officers.
“This demonstration escalated into rioting and violence that lasted throughout the night and into the early morning hours,” said Richmond Police Chief William C. Smith. “Last night’s actions far exceeded what is considered to be lawful First Amendment activity. Organizers were intent on provocation and creating mayhem by throwing rocks and other objects at the officers on duty, who showed great restraint in response to these attacks.”
RPD said three officers were injured during the rioting, along with several vehicles being heavily damaged and privately owned businesses being vandalized. Several dumpster fires were also set.
“The escalating violence prompted multiple declarations of an unlawful assembly, which was broadcast to the crowd several times with instructions to disperse. After warnings were disregarded, a pepper spray fogger was deployed,” RPD said.
The incident prompted Councilman Mike Jones to again call for a cut to the RPD budget, a move supported by Lynch.
“We need a fundamental culture change in policing and criminal justice, and it starts with dismantling good versus bad guys," Lynch said.
Councilman Jones released a statement that reads:
“Protesters in Richmond, while demonstrating their First Amendment right to gather and protest, have been adversely impacted by the harmful tactics that the Richmond Police Department has used against protesters. In response to conversations I have had with Richmonders who have been directly affected by the RPD’s actions, I am requesting that the following actions be taken:
City Council must immediately be presented with budget amendments for the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget that withdraws funding from areas associated with aggressive policing and reallocate these funds into community support functions and City Council should take immediate steps to execute our oversight responsibility by way of the Public Safety and Organizational Development committees.”
On top of that, the ACLU of Virginia penned a letter to city leaders, calling for the officers involved to be held accountable. The group also called for charges to be dropped against protesters and for the police department to be defunded.
“We fully support peaceful demonstrations, but we will not tolerate the violent assault of police officers, the threats to law-abiding members of our residential and business community or the willful destruction of the city and private property,” Smith said. “I expect my officers to remain patient and professional during this trying time and will hold accountable those who do not uphold this standard. But demonstrators must practice non-violence, and under no circumstance will I allow the violent protest to continue to harm our community.”
Sunday night’s protests happened in response to a separate incident Saturday night involving a Richmond police vehicle attempting to make its way through a crowd at the Lee monument. While doing that, people stood in front of the vehicle and were struck. Police say they’re looking for the people who attacked an officer through an open window and damaged the vehicle involved.
The officer then drove the police SUV on the curb to avoid the crowd standing in the middle of the intersection. Video shows the SUV driving over a sidewalk before going back onto the road into the path of demonstrators, sparking outrage.
That incident also led to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney asking the officer involved to be put on administrative leave.
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