By David Martinez
A protest against evictions in Richmond, Virginia on July 1 turned combative when police brutally arrested protesters and pepper sprayed the crowd. The clashes culminated in the breaking of a front window at the courthouse.
The action began earlier in the day, called to protest the lifting of Virginia’s eviction moratorium which expired on June 28. Richmond is known for having the 2nd highest eviction rate in the US, which protesters cited as a motivation for their resistance.
Multiple groups were present, including Richmond Strike, Richmond Tenants Union, Leaders of the New South, among others. The crowd rallied at the courthouse and at one point marched to city hall and on to Governor Ralph Northam’s mansion at the state capitol to demand that he extend the eviction freeze.
In a statement on the action, Richmond Tenants Union (RTU) said, “While taking down Confederate statues with one hand, representations of the systemic violence committed on Black communities, Governor Northam and Mayor Stoney continued to enact violence against those same communities by allowing evictions to begin amidst a worsening global pandemic.”
When the march returned to the courthouse, some attempted to go inside and were swarmed by dozens of sheriffs who violently detained them, enraging those outside and sparking clashes.
Other protesters tried to force their way in to demand the release of the arrestees, but police attacked in response, deploying pepper spray without warning against protesters who held their ground.
Protesters fought back against the police, some throwing water bottles. One protester threw an object through the front window, shattering it and leading to the closure of the courthouse for the rest of the day after the crowd dispersed.
While local ruling class media characterized the protest as turning ‘violent,’ RTU told Tribune of the People that “The most violent act to occur that day were the violent evictions taking place in majority Black neighborhoods across Richmond while we were gathered, and that violence continues with 1,900 evictions on the docket for the next few weeks.”