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PHOTOS: “Reopen Virginia” protesters bring the noise, bombard Capitol with honks

Horns blared and flags waved from vehicle windows as hundreds of Virginians converged Wednesday on Capitol Square to protest restrictions implemented by Gov. Ralph Northam during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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By Chip Lauterbach

Horns blared and flags waved from vehicle windows as hundreds of Virginians converged Wednesday on Capitol Square to protest restrictions implemented by Gov. Ralph Northam during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protesters reiterated the message of similar demonstrations taking place in state capitals across the country. The groups hope to influence governors and lawmakers to scale back strict social distancing guidelines and allow businesses and churches to reopen.

“At first we were compliant,” said protester David Decker. “Now it seems like it’s being forced upon us more and more, and we’re absolutely sick of it.”

Many protesters said they disagree that liquor stores are considered an essential business, while many smaller businesses were ordered to close.

“I am against any policy that gives liberty to a corporation over the citizens,” said Jeffery Torres. “Corporations get their interests served while the interests of citizens get ignored.”

A small group of around 20 people — some brought the entire family — gathered near the Capitol Square entrance. Few wore masks or observed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suggested social distancing recommendation of 6 feet of space.

Virginia imposed strict social distancing guidelines in late March. Northam issued a series of executive orders closing nonessential businesses and outlining which businesses could remain open. The stay at home order was later extended until June 10. Restaurants closed dining rooms and shifted to carry-out and delivery only. Recreational and entertainment facilities were shuttered, along with beauty salons, spas, massage parlors, and other nonessential establishments. Essential businesses such as grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, pet and feed stores, electronic and hardware retailers, and banks can remain open.

The Virginia Department of Health reports approximately 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the commonwealth as of Wednesday. Northam and health officials maintain that social distancing is keeping cases from skyrocketing.

Unemployment claims have had a dizzying ascent, with the Virginia Employment Commission reporting on April 16 that 410,762 claims were filed since March 21.

The event was not without counter-protesters, among them Dr. Erich Bruhn, a surgeon from Winchester. Bruhn wore a facemask and carried a sign that read, “You have no right to put us all at risk, go home.”

“I came out here today to tell the other side that the majority of people do not agree with this,” Bruhn said. “We want the economy to open up, but it is just too soon according to most scientists.”

As the interview with Bruhn was wrapping up, a female protester leaned out of her car window and shouted at Bruhn, “How long are we supposed to stay inside?”

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, who has announced her intent to run for governor next year, voiced support for the rally.

“There will be a number of people at this rally, and it has been well-publicized,” Chase said during a Facebook live stream. “I think it sends a great message to the governor to reopen Virginia in a smart, wise way.”

Protesters drove around the Capitol perimeter honking their horns for three hours. The event coincided with the General Assembly reconvening to respond to Northam’s vetoes and amendments. The House of Delegates, which met under a tent on Capitol grounds, was bombarded by the ongoing ruckus. There were no incidents of violence reported, though one Capitol police officer joked he had a headache from all the noise.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Community

Weigh in on Richmond’s New Downtown Plan Tonight

A public meeting is today at 6:00 PM to learn about and share your thoughts on the recently released draft City Center small area plan.

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Details from Partnership for Smarter Growth

Please join us at a public meeting today at 6:00PM to learn about and share your thoughts on the recently released draft City Center small area plan. You can attend the meeting in person at the Greater Richmond Convention Center or online via Microsoft Teams. Go to the PDR website to learn more.
City staff drafted this plan in response to the failed Navy Hill redevelopment proposal, and it encompasses largely the same area, while this time recommending demolition of the Coliseum, without replacement. This isn’t the only big change.
The plan focuses on how to create a vibrant urban neighborhood in an area marked by a number of vacant city owned parcels, and includes proposed improvements to bicycle, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure, at least 20% affordable housing, and new amenities, including a linear park, a pedestrian plaza, and outdoor dining space. Included are protected bike lanes, a new transit transfer center, and a new City Hall at a new location. The latter is quite a surprise to many of us and we would like to learn more. We also want to understand if a Transfer Center located two blocks from the Pulse BRT, makes sense.
To date, the primary input has been limited to online surveys due to the pandemic, so we hope there will be more opportunities for public involvement in planning the future of our downtown.Take a look at the draft plan and see all of the proposed changes in store for the City Center area, and leave comments on the interactive PDF, by following this link
Do you like the public spaces and are they enough? The location of the transit transfer center? Moving City Hall into a new building at a new location?
We hope you can attend tonight and also send in comments. Thank you for your involvement in shaping the future of our city and region.
Screenshot from the Small Area Plan

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Community

RPD Investigating Quadruple Shooting

At approximately 1:27 a.m., officers were called to the 200 block of Crane Street for the report of a shooting.

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are investigating a quadruple shooting that occurred early Sunday morning and are asking for the community’s help.

At approximately 1:27 a.m., officers were called to the 200 block of Crane Street for the report of a shooting.

Officers arrived and found an adult male suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. He was transported to a local hospital with life threatening injuries. Three additional victims self-transported to a local hospital, all with gunshot wounds, and one with life threatening injuries.

There was a large crowd in the parking lot prior to the shooting. Anyone with information is asked to call Major Crimes Detective M. Young at (804) 646-3926 or contact Crime Stoppers at 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

 

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Police Looking for Detergent Thief

Over the past two weeks, the male in the photos twice entered a store located in the 2400 block of East Main Street, produced a bag and filled it with several bottles of laundry detergent before leaving the store.

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From RPD:

Can you identify the larceny suspect in the photos who twice cleaned out a store of laundry detergent recently?

Over the past two weeks the male in the photos twice entered a store located in the 2400 block of East Main Street, produced a bag and filled it with several bottles of laundry detergent before leaving the store.

The male is approximately 5’ 9” tall. In one incident he wore a blue polo shirt, ripped blue jeans, and white shoes.

Anyone who recognizes this individual or knows his whereabouts is asked to call First Precinct Detective Sergeant Miller at (804) 646-1289 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.

The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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