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Police: Demonstrators tried to pull down J.E.B. Stuart statue; unlawful assembly declared

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jun 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-21 23:46:38-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- An unlawful assembly was declared after police said demonstrators tried to topple the statue honoring Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart on Richmond's Monument Avenue Sunday night.

Police, who posted about declaration on Twitter around 9:40 p.m., later said the call was made after protesters tried to pull down the 113-year-old statue with rope.

Officers said pulling down the statue "could have caused serious injuries."

“This is been deemed an unlawful assembly," police could be heard saying via a bullhorn. "Disperse now or you will be subject to arrest."

Police previously said failure to disperse could lead to arrest and "exposure to chemical agents."

A police helicopter could be seen circling over the scene.

"We saw a large crowd of people gathered near the statue, but they mostly looked to be just standing around it," WTVR CBS 6 reporter Jake Burns said. "Heard one explosion, but couldn't tell where it came from."

READ MORE: A monumental history of squabbling over statues

The department reminded protesters Friday that police have the authority to declare an unlawful assembly if protests become violent or dangerous.

RPD spokesperson Gene Lepley said the declaration, under Virginia Code VA 18.2 -406, gives officers the authority to make arrests if protesters fail to disperse.

Richmond Police said several unlawful assembly declarations have been announced in recent weeks and "officers have refrained from making arrests," but property damage and personal injury will not be tolerated.

“I have instructed my officers to make every effort to support each citizen’s First Amendment right to express their opinion,” RPD Interim Chief William “Jody” Blackwell said. “We share their vision of a better, more inclusive future for Richmond. But, some protesters actions put everyone at risk and we must address that.”

Officials said when the decision is made to declare an unlawful assembly, repeated announcements are made by bullhorn to alert everyone to leave:

“This is been deemed an unlawful assembly. Please disperse. Failure to disperse will result in arrest and/or exposure to chemical agents.”

Police noted the declaration will also be tweeted out.

"If you hear the unlawful assembly announcement or see the Tweet, please leave the area immediately," Lepley wrote.

Fifth statue topped in Richmond

A statue honoring the fallen soldiers of the First Regiment of Virginia Infantry in Richmond has been pulled down early Saturday morning, the fifth statue to meet such an end in the city since protests began more than three weeks ago.

The statue stood on a pedestal in Meadow Park, which is about two blocks to the southwest of the Robert E. Lee Statue.

The other statues that have been pulled down in Richmond are the Howitzers Monument near VCU, the statue of Jefferson Davis on Monument Avenue, the statue of Christopher Columbus in Byrd Park, and the statue of General Williams Carter Wickham in Monroe Park.

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