News to Know for June 19: Vigil at Lee statue; Injured officer has message for community; Juneteenth celebrations; Scattered showers expected

News to Know for June 19: Vigil at Lee statue; Injured officer has message for community; Juneteenth celebrations; Scattered showers expected
A large number of people are expected to gather at the Robert E. Lee Monument for a candlelight vigil Friday night. (Source: Hannah Eason - The Commonwealth Times)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Happy Juneteenth - also known as Freedom Day! It commemorates the 155th anniversary of the day enslaved people in Texas, the last in the country, learned of their freedom. Dozens of events are planned through the weekend... but you’ll want to be prepared for rain if attending.

Shower, Storm Chances Continue

The rain is going to stick around through the weekend, but chances go down in time for Father’s Day, so you can still plan on grilling outside.

Scattered shower & storm pattern continues through the weekend

Summer begins at 5:44 p.m. on Saturday, and heat returns shortly after into next week.

Vigil Planned at the Lee Monument

A large number of people are expected to gather at the Robert E. Lee Monument for a candlelight vigil this evening. The following roads will be closed from 4 to 10 p.m. in anticipation:

  • Monument Avenue between Lombardy Street and Meadow Street
  • Allen Avenue between Park Avenue and West Broad Street

Why Tonight?

Here is a list of the scheduled events:

  • Friday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m. - Candle Light Vigil Up at the Robert E. Lee Statue on Monument Avenue
  • Saturday, June 20 at noon - Feed Your City Event at Petersburg Public Library 201 West Washington Street (This is a change from the original location)
  • Sunday, June 21 at 9 a.m. - Black Lives Matters Fathers Day Bike Ride with @UrbanCycling at Bryan Park in Richmond

Injured Officer Recalls Protests

A Richmond police officer, injured during the weeks of protests and chaos, has a message for his community.

RPD Officer Duane Peppel, who’s a former Marine, was one of a handful of officers on West Grace Street Sunday night and says police were outnumbered 10 to one. He was left with burn marks on his body.

But he says he is not deterred from keeping the peace.

‘I will be there’: Injured RPD officer not letting protests deter him from helping community

“I mean that. I will be there each and every citizen even the person who threw the bottle at me with caustic chemicals,” he said. “I will be there for you no matter what.”

The officer says now is the time for a constructive conversation between activists and police.

Were Other Officers Injured?

Yes. Virginia State Police have released the bodycam footage of a sergeant being hit in the leg with a piece of asphalt during protests early Monday morning.

The protests, in response to an incident that happened over the weekend, took place outside of Richmond Police Headquarters along Grace Street Sunday night and into Monday.

RPD said one of its officers was injured, while VSP said two of its law enforcement officers were injured.

WARNING: The video does contain profanity.

VSP release bodycam video of sergeant being hit with piece of asphalt during protests

Challenging Times Ahead

Richmond’s interim police chief William “Jody” Blackwell spoke publicly for the first time about his new role.

“The strength of our city is truly being tested. We know as a society we have to improve race relations, combat discrimination and racism,” he said.

When discussing morale in the police department, Blackwell said he has the support of his officers and community but knows there’s work to be done. He emphasized working on the relationship between police and the community. You can rewatch his full press conference here.

Juneteenth Celebrations

With discussions about race at center stage in our country, dozens of events are planned across central Virginia to commemorate Juneteenth.

While some traditional events like “Juneteenth: A Freedom Celebration” will now be held virtually, several other groups will hold celebrations advocating for change. You can find a full list here.

On Tuesday, Northam announced plans to introduce legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday. Currently, the cities of Richmond and Petersburg as well as Louisa and Henrico counties already observe Juneteenth as a holiday.

Coronavirus in the Commonwealth

For the seventh time in ten days, new coronavirus cases fell below 500. Three additional deaths were reported yesterday - the lowest number in more than two months.

And the positivity rate, which is supposed to determine the pace of reopening, fell again to 7.2%. At the peak of the pandemic, that figure was more than 20%.

That’s Good Right?

It is. But despite the positive trends across the commonwealth, restrictions will not be easing for the weekend.

Virginia is not entering Phase 3 quite yet, but Governor Northam says we should begin planning for what it will look like once we get there.

During phase 3, up to 250 people will be able to gather in spaces. Restaurants, bars, and most retail spaces will no longer have capacity limitations. Businesses such as gyms and outdoor venues will operate at 75% capacity.

Northam says Virginia won’t enter phase 3 of his reopening plan until Friday, June 26 at the earliest.

Streaming the Solstice

Although we are in the midst of a global pandemic, we’ll all have the opportunity to celebrate the summer solstice at one of the world’s most unique sites.

This extreme tilt means we will have 15 hours of daylight on June 20th.
This extreme tilt means we will have 15 hours of daylight on June 20th. (Source: NBC12)

For the first time ever, the annual tradition of watching the sunrise into the center of the Heel Stone at Stonehenge in Salisbury, England will be live-streamed!

You can find the link to the live stream here. Though the sunrise is at 4:52 am British Standard Time, those of us on the east coast should tune in this Saturday at 11:52 p.m. EST.

Final Thought

“You can’t separate peace from freedom, because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” — Malcolm X

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