Richmond police said Monday that six people were arrested Sunday night after a rope was tied around the J.E.B. Stuart statue and police declared an unlawful assembly.
“The action was taken as protesters threw objects at the officers and tied a rope to the statue in an apparent attempt to pull it down — an action that would have put many people at risk of being hit,” police said in a prepared statement Monday.
They sent out a message via Twitter around 9:20 p.m. Sunday that the assembly of protesters at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Stuart Circle was deemed unlawful. Police in riot gear used pepper spray and flash-bang grenades to clear Stuart Circle of protesters, forcing them back up Monument Avenue toward the Robert E. Lee statue. Some demonstrators said tear gas was also used.
The protesters and police were in a standoff between the two monuments for more than four hours Sunday night into early Monday morning.
All six people arrested were processed and released. They were identified as: Paul E. Behrends II, 23, of Richmond; William G. Keller, 23, of Richmond; Robert W. Wood, 20, of Henrico County; Summer A. Orcutt, 30, of Richmond; Thomas J. Feeney, 25, of Richmond; and Anna C. Posner, 21, of Lorton.
Posner was rearrested after she returned to the statue and was charged with another, related offense — remaining at a place of a riot or unlawful assembly.
Police said one officer was injured when he was struck on the arm by a thrown brick. He was treated at the scene.
Andrew Ringle, executive editor of The Commonwealth Times, VCU’s student newspaper — who was covering the event as a working member of the media — was pepper-sprayed by police as they marched up Monument Avenue. He later posted a photo of his bloody elbow, which he said happened after he was thrown to the ground by an officer he bumped into while filming.
Police did not respond Monday to an inquiry from the Richmond Times-Dispatch about Ringle. Ringle said that as of Monday evening, he had not heard from the police.
Though some members of the City Council are calling for the removal of statues on Monument Avenue for public safety reasons, the city doesn’t control the statues until July 1. The Lee statue, the largest and most well-known, is owned by the state. Its removal is the subject of a court battle.
Responding to the police tweet about unlawful assembly, the crowd chanted back, “We’re not leaving.” Just before 10 p.m., a line of officers in riot gear marched toward the statue and in minutes encircled it, blocking off all sides of the monument.
Richmond police tweeted around 10:10 p.m. the reason for the declaration: “The Unlawful Assembly was declared earlier due to protesters attempting to pull down the J.E.B. Stuart statue with rope, which could have caused serious injuries.”
The department announced on Friday that it “has the authority to declare protests that become violent, dangerous or disruptive as unlawful assemblies” under state law, giving them the authority to make arrests if a crowd fails to disperse.
According to the department, when the decision is made to declare an unlawful assembly, repeated announcements will be made to alert everyone it is time to leave. That message will say the gathering has been deemed an unlawful assembly and that failure to disperse will result in arrest and/or exposure to chemical agents.”
The tribute to Stuart, a Confederate Civil War general who was born in Patrick County, was Monument Avenue’s second statue, erected in 1907.