Richmond mayor asks for probe as police car hits protesters
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has asked a state prosecutor to investigate an incident Saturday when a police SUV drove into a group of protesters who were blocking the vehicle’s path during a demonstration.
In messages on Twitter, Stoney said he has also asked the police department to place the officer involved on administrative leave.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that no one appeared to be injured after a Richmond police SUV drove slowly up on a curb and appeared to strike multiple protesters as they blocked the vehicle’s path near the Robert E. Lee statue Saturday night.
“I believe that last night’s incident requires a full investigation,” Stoney wrote. “I have spoken with the Commonwealth’s Attorney and have requested that she investigate and expedite this review, along with several other cases from the past two weeks.”
The newspaper said two of its reporters witnessed the incident.
In messages posted on Twitter early Sunday morning, the Richmond Police Department said police are investigating the incident, including what it called “a possible assault” on an officer who was inside the vehicle. The department said it is also investigating reports on social media “that a person in the crowd may have been struck by the vehicle.”
Spokespersons for the department did not respond to requests seeking comment Sunday. Chief William Smith also did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The incident took place on the 16th night of protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The newspaper reported that at about 9:30 p.m., the police SUV slowly made its way north on Allen Avenue toward a line of bicyclists who were blocking cars from entering the traffic circle around the statue.
After briefly stopping at the blockade of cyclists, the SUV attempted to back up but was blocked by another vehicle. In an attempt get around the crowd, the SUV drove up on the curb, where more demonstrators gathered to block its way.
The protesters stood up against the front bumper as the vehicle lurched forward, causing some in the crowd to jump back and others to fall to the side.
As the vehicle returned to the road, people screamed as it collided with protesters. A video posted on Twitter shows a crowd swarm the driver’s side of the police vehicle.
The crowd parted, allowing the SUV to leave. The newspaper reported that no one appeared injured in the immediate aftermath.
Just before the incident, a crowd was gathered in the circle listening to loud music.
The Lee statue has become a focal point of protests since Floyd’s death. The protesters have called for removing the statue as well as other Confederate monuments in Richmond. Gov. Ralph Northam has said the state will take it down, but a judge has issued a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit filed by someone who wants to stop its removal.