Richmond activist responds to police chief’s resignation, says protests should continue

Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 12:16 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Reaction over the Richmond Police Chief’s departure continues to grow. It comes after several recent clashes between police and protesters, including more tear gas and even rubber bullets deployed onto a crowd outside of police headquarters Monday night.

"Chief Smith is a good man. He has served this city with grace but we are ready to move in a new direction,” Mayor Levar Stoney said Tuesday.

Chief William Smith’s replacement for the interim will be Major Jody Blackwell whose been with the department for more than two decades.

"The change is because I believe we have to find a way, re-imagine a way, we keep the public safe and I believe that was necessary,” Stoney continued.

In recent protests, officers have been hurt. Protesters will tell you, so have they. Tuesday, the Mayor said he supported the peaceful protesters.

“We’re only defining the protesters. Why don’t we define the police? What does a peaceful police officer look like? Does it look like the riot gear?” Richmond activist Chelsea Higgs Wise said.

She says she supports all protesters and transforming what policing looks like.

"Seeing the police snatch one of the protesters from the crowd, it almost felt like ICE was coming to snatch them in a van and we wouldn’t know where they were gonna go… They come out with tear gas in their hand ready to use it and they’ve been trained that they’re in a war zone against civilians. It feels very civil warlike,” Higgs Wise added.

Stoney says investigations are underway to determine if officers were wrong in recent events.

He says if so, there will be accountability.

This as the news of the day doesn’t mean an end to the protests we’ve seen for two weeks now.

"The police chief being fired is just the first step in a symbolism that our leadership is not working,” Higgs Wise said. “Do you want the protests to stop?” NBC 12 asked. “Nope. We’re not there yet. Don’t stop. We’re not there yet and don’t charge me for inciting a riot,” Higgs Wise responded referring to the charge a protester was given over the weekend.

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