RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Riots over the weekend caused quite a bit of damage in Richmond, but Mayor Levar Stoney says the crowd responsible for that damage is not the same group that had been protesting peacefully for weeks.
On Sunday, city leaders announced they believe that white supremacists were leading the charge for the Saturday night riot, under the guise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Some protesters that have been active for the last two months say they had nothing to do with what broke out over the weekend.
Rebecca Keel with Southerners on New Ground (SONG), an LGBTQ rights group, says they are concerned that the sort of actions that were taken on Saturday would put local organizers’ right to protest as risk, but also that not enough is being done by police to ensure that they have those rights.
“As there are these uprisings in defense of black life, it’s really important that our civil liberties are protected,” Keel said, concerned about the riot setting back the progress that similar groups in the city have made so far.
Keel added that “many organizations are concerned about this counter-narrative of white supremacists using firearms to intimidate people,” referring to an incident in the Fan District where a man in a black pickup truck got into a verbal confrontation with a rioter, but not before letting off a few rounds from his handgun.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said at a Sunday news conference that RPD is looking into the incident. He was asked again by reporters at a press conference earlier Monday.
“It’s been coming at me left and right, but I will get an answer to that question,” the Chief said.
Keel, however, doesn’t think that’s enough.
”That is something that is of great concern because it impedes and intimidates. It really blocks us from exercising our first amendment rights: freedom of speech and freedom of assembly,” Keel said.
Recently, a billboard popped up on Oliver Hill Way calling on Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin to drop all charges against protesters, and reopen the case of Marcus David Peters - a demand that has been echoed time and time again the last few weeks.
“It’s really inspiring to see the public art go up that is actually political in nature,” Keel said of the billboard.
NBC12 did reach out to Attorney McEachin regarding the billboard, and the said stood by her statement from a few months back that her office “does not respond to demands from any individual or group, and that their “duty is to respond to the law and facts of each case.”
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