By Phil Wilayto
RICHMOND, VA (VD) — Richmond police confirmed the arrest of one of several heavily armed individuals involved in an incident early Friday morning at the Lee statue on Monument Avenue. Several others were “detained,” but apparently have not yet been charged.
According to an eyewitness, the incident involved one of several vehicles carrying heavily armed white men knocking down a young black man and his bicycle and dragging the man and his bike for several feet along the grassy area of the Lee Monument circle.
In response to an inquiry by this reporter, police spokesperson James Mercante stated that police officers followed the vehicles, making three separate traffic stops. The stops “revealed multiple assault-style rifles, handguns, ammunition and body armor. Three assault-style rifles and one handgun were seized. … Multiple persons were detained, none with addresses in the City of Richmond. One individual was arrested and charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.”
Mercante stated that “further investigation may lead to additional charges in relation to this incident” and asked that anyone with information about the incident call Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.
According to Mercante, “[Friday] morning at approximately 12:55 a.m., RPD officers in the area of the Robert E. Lee circle observed individuals in the traffic lanes dismounted with their bicycles. Several pickup trucks approached them. Words were exchanged between the individuals and the drivers of the pickup trucks. One pickup truck sped off and then another pickup truck ran over a bicycle while fleeing the area. Officers quickly responded and made three traffic stops related to this incident.”
This journalist first learned of the events from Justin L. Upshaw, a protester, who said he was at the Lee statue at around 12:55 Friday morning.
“I observed three trucks that had been circling the Lee Monument where protestors were sitting, and some were in front of or walking with bikes directly in front of [a Richmond Police Department] car,” Upshaw texted.
“I saw the vehicles come to a halt, something that they haven’t done the past week [while] the menacing has occurred. As I walked around the corner of the monument, I observed a black male, late teens/early 20s, standing with his bike, in front of one of the vehicles – a pickup truck, [which] had its bumper pressing against the man and his bike.
“Words were exchanged, and the vehicle’s engine ‘revved up’ and I observed the vehicle topple the rider and bike, dragging them across the sidewalk. I observed several feet of markings on the pavement consistent with hard metal dragged over concrete. I possess video and pictures of this, and the several more (approximately seven) feet of tire marks curving in toward the monument and protests before it leads back out to the road.
“The vehicles increased speed and headed west on monument ave. After a delay, the officer on site proceeded at a leisurely pace in the direction of the assailants.”
Upshaw said the young man knocked down by the pickup truck “is physically ok, emotionally, not.”
This would be the second time in recent days that right wing citizens have used a vehicle to assault a Black Lives Matter protester. The earlier incident, just two days prior, involved a self-described leader of the KKK in Virginia who allegedly ran his truck into a group of anti-racist protesters on Lakeside Avenue near Vale Street in Henrico County. The protesters had been heading toward the Richmond statue of Confederate Gen. Ambrose Powell “A.P.” Hill Jr. (in a traffic circle where the Confederate general is actually buried, in an upright position.) Klansman Harry H. Rogers, 36, was charged with attempted malicious wounding, felony vandalism, and assault and battery.
Wilayto, editor of The Virginia Defender, urges that anyone witnessing assaults or threatening behavior against BLM protesters is urged to text or phone the Defender at 804-644-5823, email DefendersFJE@hotmail.com or message their Facebook page.