Everything you need to know: Preparing for this weekend’s possible Monument Avenue protests

Everything you need to know: Preparing for this weekend’s possible Monument Avenue protests

A number of protesters and counter protesters are expected on Monument Avenue near Lee Circle Saturday. While it’s tough to predict just who will show up and what may happen, it’s important to be prepared. Here’s everything we know so far and what you can do ahead of time no matter what goes down.

Photo: Panoramio

Yesterday evening Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham spoke to community members and answered questions about the unpermitted rally planned for this Saturday at Lee Circle on Monument Avenue, entitled Protect The Lee Monument planned for Saturday by CSA II. While it’s tough to predict exactly what will happen Saturday, it’s equally as important to be prepared for the unknown following the events of Charlottesville in August.

Here’s what we know so far, ways you can be prepared, and a look at some of the groups expected to have a presence in Richmond Saturday.

What’s going on this weekend

There is the possibility of a rally at or near the Robert E. Lee Memorial on the 16th. If this event, self-billed as a “Heritage Not Hate” protest in support of the Lee Monument (and other Confederate statues along the road), takes place, there will likely be counter protests. The state-level Department of General Services, which maintains the Lee statue and owns the land on which it sits, denied protesters a permit for the event, yet police still fear protesters will be undeterred and show up anyway.

Officially, the group says the rally will get underway at 10:00 AM, but when folks start assembling on Monument Avenue is anyone’s guess.

What Richmond Police plan to do

During the community meeting held at First Baptist Church, just blocks from the planned protests, several important points were reiterated. Despite lacking an official assembly permit, the Tennessee-based group will be allowed to hold their rally since the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to assembly.

The city, however, will enforce a weapons ban on items such as bats, sticks, knives, and even helmets. Richmond can’t enforce a ban on the most dangerous weapons–guns–due to the state’s open carry laws. “While the law states and allows the open carrying in public of firearms, the law does not allow for the threatening or menacing of individuals who are handling such weapons, and if any weapons laws are violated, we will be making arrests,” Chief Durham said Thursday evening.

A KKK-era law that bans protesters from wearing masks will be strictly enforced, too. He says anyone wearing a mask will be immediately arrested with no warning.

The chief stressed that Richmond residents should avoid the area. Those that expressed concern about being injured were told that the best defense was to stay home and not add to the crowd.

This sentiment was echoed by VCU President Michael Rao, too. Yesterday, he sent out an email to staff that read in part:

For your safety, I strongly encourage all members of the VCU community to avoid this area Saturday. There is precedence for violence at this kind of demonstration, and your safety is my paramount concern […] We all have the freedom of speech, expression, and peaceful assembly. As members of a research university community dedicated to education and creativity, we take those freedoms seriously. We also have the autonomy of sound judgment, and we recognize that difficult or contentious debates can be productive only when the threat of violence will not drown out our voices.

To protect attendees on both sides, police have installed a tractor trailer full of metal fencing on both sides of Monument Avenue and will erect a perimeter around the Lee statue, too. Department of Public Works trucks will barricade the area as well in an effort to prevent a car attack like the one seen in Charlottesville last month.

Who’s likely coming and what they represent

While it’s tough to officially confirm or deny any one group’s presence, here’s what we know so far. Based on internet chatter and social media posts, it appears members of the following groups will likely be present, in no particular order:

  • CSA II: The New Confederate States of America – A Tennessee-based neo-Confederate group that believes the Confederacy should be re-established and sees themselves as a “provisional governmental organization” of these efforts, which are not recognized by any official body. No word on how many people this fringe group may bring in.
  • Black Lives Matter of New York – The New York City chapter of the national Black Lives Matter movement is sending many of its members to Richmond to protest white supremacy, RVA Mag reports. The group, formed after Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman, proclaims to be a body that is “…rooted in the experiences of black people in this country who actively resist our de-humanization” and “a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-black racism that permeates our society.”
  • Antifa – Members of the antifa movement, self-described as a conglomeration of anti-fascist groups dedicated to battling the ideas of the far right and white supremacy, a salient feature of the group being opposition to fascism by “direct action,” which has historically included acts of violence.
  • Counter protesters – There will undoubtably be a large presence of counter protesters from Richmond and beyond should protests materialize on Saturday, the likes of whom may outnumber the aforementioned protest groups, based on many predictions and past events in other cities.

Parking restrictions and road closures

To have as many cars out of the way as possible, the Richmond Police will implement a number of temporary parking restrictions and road closures.

Monument Avenue

Road closures and no parking zones will be designated beginning at 9:00 AM on Friday, September 15th and will reopen at 8:00 PM on Saturday, September 16th:

  • Monument Avenue between Lombardy and Meadow Streets;
  • North Allen Avenue between West Grace Street and Park Avenue;
  • West Grace Street westbound between Allen Avenue and Lombardy Street, and;
  • West Grace Street eastbound between Allen Avenue and Meadow Street

Richmond Coliseum Area

Road closures will be designated beginning at 5:00 AM Saturday, September 16th on the following streets and will reopen as soon as possible Saturday afternoon based on conditions: 

  • East Clay Street between 9th and 7th Streets
  • North Eighth Street between East Leigh and Marshall Streets

No parking zones will be designated at 5:00 PM on Friday, September 15th through 11:00 PM on September 16th for the following streets:

  • East Clay Street between 9th and 7th Streets
  • North Eighth Street between East Leigh and Marshall Streets
  • East Leigh Street between 4th and 8th Streets

Maps of all the parking restrictions and road closures can be seen below.