RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Police promised a strong presence as the search continues for those who vandalized the Jefferson Davis statue on Monument Avenue. Our crew experienced it first hand, when three police cars were called to the scene as the reporter and photographer was preparing to bring you this report.
Tensions were high.
"USA!" screamed a man holding an American flag clad only in what appeared to be patriotic underwear with blue and white paint on his legs.
Earlier in the day, many people came out with Confederate Flags and worked to wash off the Black Lives Matter letters spray painted on the Jefferson Davis statue.
"I don't want any attention," said one man. "I just want to clean this up."
Tensions escalated with some protesters holding Black Lives Matter signs.
"It blows my mind that people would actually do this...desecrate a statue like that," said Keith who took pictures of the vandalism.
Chris Thomas and his photographer were working on a follow-up story about the vandalism. Soon after Chris arrived, several Richmond Police cars rushed to the scene, but upon arrival, the cops were very kind when they saw it was Chris. Police say one of the neighbors called 9-1-1, saying two black guys were about to vandalize the monument again.
"This statue, in my opinion, is a slap in the face to all the Black people of the United States of America," said Robert Gabay who grew up along Monument Avenue. "Because it depicts a man who sought the right to be able to buy and sell human beings as livestock."
Keith could not disagree more.
"They say they have the civil war celebration," said Keith about the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue. "It ain't a celebration. It's a remembrance."
Local historians say it is not fair to label the monuments and Confederate flags as racist symbols.
"People served, fought and died under these flags," said John Coski who is a historian with the American Civil War Museum. "Therefore that service gave these flags meaning as a memorial symbol. These flags are for many people a memorial symbol pure and simple."
And yet others feel the vandalism should not come as a surprise.
"No. I'm not surprised by any of this, and I'm not ferociously offended," said Richmonder Tommy Moore. "White's have it coming...to a certain extent. When Whites are forgiven for Jim Crow laws, slavery the whole thing and they are forgiven...it gives us a chance to slip back into our White silence, and that's the real culprit."
Historical experts like Coski are hoping we will all try and be more accepting of differing opinions.
"Why don't people accept that this is a symbol of racism?" questioned Coski. "You have to understand the strength of the emotional attachment that it has for people who descend from men who fought and died or fought and served under that flag."
Police tell NBC12 they have notified all precincts about the vandalism. Officers have been told to be vigilant.