Police Say Richmond Riot Started By White Supremacists
The mayor and police chief of Richmond, Virginia, say rioting that followed a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday, after more than a month of largely peaceful protests in the city, was instigated by white supremacists. At a news conference Sunday, Mayor Levar Stoney said,
There were white supremacists marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter, attempting to undermine an otherwise overwhelmingly peaceful movement towards social justice.
Stoney also thanked local Black Lives Matters organizers for condemning the white supremacists, saying the rioters' mission was to "undermine the month of [peaceful], community-driven protest that this city has seen. It's not the Richmond we know." People who have regularly been at the protests said the crowd that rioted near Richmond's police station wasn't connected with them.
Following the protest Saturday night, a large group of people left the park where the march ended and began breaking the windows of businesses near Virginia Commonwealth University, and at a dorm at the university. They eventually gathered near the police department headquarters, where someone set fire to a city dump truck and other fires were set in dumpsters. Sunday night, police "proactively" arrested people who stayed at the park after it closed at 10 p.m.
There was also an incident in which a white guy jumped out of a big pickup and fired a handgun at the pavement while yelling at protesters; there may have been a second shot; and someone in the truck yelled the n-word as it drove off. The license plate is visible but blurred out in the released video, so we imagine the driver will hear soon from authorities.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said at the news conference Sunday,
We have identified some individuals who have been seen with the Boogaloo boys and some Antifa groups around the area. [...] The majority of those individuals who were there last night were Caucasian. [...]
And some of the individuals that we encountered were from outside of Richmond, Virginia, and some of the surrounding area.
Smith said a flyer calling for violence against police, which had been circulating last week,
came from outside of Richmond. [...] There are some people who are still inside some of these organizations that will still give us information. And that's how we know it came from outside of Richmond.
Presumably, we'll get more on that; yesterday, however, Smith said that police can't link any of the six people arrested Saturday to white supremacist groups. The Washington Post notes that of the 15 people arrested over the weekend, nine "were from Richmond or nearby Henrico County, and the rest were all from Virginia."
The Post also says Stoney
offered little direct evidence of outside influence, though officials said Monday that was still under investigation. Police Chief Gerald M. Smith said that fliers promoting anti-police rallies for the weekend had been produced outside of Richmond and that several of the people arrested were from other parts of the state.
At this point, it sounds like Smith and Stoney have some evidence of white supremacist infiltrators. Claims of "outside agitators" are common following protests, and have in some cases been used to delegitimize valid complaints. Some Minnesota officials, including Gov. Tim Walz, blamed outside agitators for the Minneapolis riots, although most of those arrested turned out to have been Minnesotans. If people want to burn shit down over all this, we can't say we blame them.
But there definitely are violent rightwing extremists who see the protests as a convenient cover for terror. "Boogaloo" adherents have been charged with murder and assault in California attacks on law enforcement, and three men were arrested for planning terrorist attacks during protests in Las Vegas.
Be careful out there.
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