Police in Richmond, Virginia declared an “unlawful assembly” on Sunday night and cleared away a crowd of protesters who appeared to be planning to tear down a statue of a Confederate general in the city, ABC News reported.
Protesters had converged on the city’s monument to James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart, who served as a Confederate general during the Civil War — including seeing action at the Battle of Gettysburg — and was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. Protesters were seemingly intent on forcibly removing the statue, having tied ropes around the monument, in an apparent effort to pull the statue down.
Some time later, the police declared an “unlawful assembly,” citing a Virginia law that defines the crime.
At around 9:20 p.m. this evening, an unlawful assembly has been declared at the J.E.B. Stuart Monument. Please leave the area. pic.twitter.com/Gj2yL9cZ2u
— Richmond Police (@RichmondPolice) June 22, 2020
Conflicting reports have made it unclear what prompted police to make the declaration.
In a tweet, Richmond police said that it was the apparent looming destruction of the statue, and the possibility that someone could get injured in the process, that caused them to enact the declaration.
“[The declaration was made] due to protesters attempting to pull down the J.E.B. Stuart statue with rope, which could have caused serious injuries,” the organization tweeted.
However, Virginia State Police tweeted that the “unlawful assembly” declaration was made only after protesters allegedly starting throwing bottles at police.
When protesters blocked JEB Stuart intersection, climbed atop & secured ropes to the statue, @RichmondPolice responded. Only when protesters began throwing bottles at officers was Unlawful Assembly declared. #VSP responded to disperse the rioters. NO injuries reported. https://t.co/at679eRWtl
— VA State Police (@VSPPIO) June 22, 2020
It was not the first time Richmond police have had to make such a declaration. Indeed, according to a June 19 WRIC-TV report, police in the city have had to make the declaration multiple times since the death of George Floyd, in order to get ahead of peaceful demonstrations that looked as if they were going to turn violent.
In a statement, the Richmond Police Department said that its officers respect protesters’ First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, but that “the danger of personal injury and on-going willful and wanton property damage cannot be tolerated.”
Further, the city’s police department noted that officers have used the declarations to clear protests, but have not been making arrests.
Meanwhile, other statues of Confederate generals (and other fighters) have met their ends at the hands of protesters. For example, as previously reported by The Inquisitr, last Friday night protesters in two cities tore down Confederate statues. In Washington, D.C., protesters tore down a statue of Albert Pike, the only statue of a Confederate fighter to have stood in the nation’s capital, and set it on fire. A few hundred miles away, in Raleigh, North Carolina, protesters pulled down statues of figurative Confederate soldiers (not meant to depict specific people) and, in one case, hanged one in effigy from a lamp post.