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Violent weekend demonstrators caused more than $100,000 in damages to VCU, surrounding area

“It is heartbreaking to see extensive damage at our Monroe Park Campus following a violent demonstration overnight in Richmond, President Michael Rao said. “About 80 windows were broken in a dozen buildings along with site furnishings dragged onto the street and damaged and numerous buildings tagged with graffiti.”

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Weekend protests and riots in and around the Fan and VCU area caused more than $100,000 in damage to university property, with the price tag much higher for businesses in the surrounding area that had windows smashed out or were tagged with graffiti.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch recapped the night’s events, saying:

After 24 days without major clashes between police and protesters, demonstrations on Saturday night into Sunday morning ended with six arrests, damage to several businesses and VCU properties, and a city dump truck in flames outside Richmond police headquarters.

City officials said supporters of both left-wing and right-wing movements attended the protests, which were advertised as being in support of protesters in Portland, Ore.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said at a news conference on Sunday that white supremacists marched among the hundreds of protesters who wove through downtown Richmond before stopping at the Richmond Police Department headquarters.

Continue reading their coverage here.

VCU President Michael Rao released a statement on the vandalism on Sunday, reading in full:

To the University and VCU Health Communities,

It is heartbreaking to see extensive damage at our Monroe Park Campus following a violent demonstration overnight in Richmond. About 80 windows were broken in a dozen buildings along with site furnishings dragged onto the street and damaged and numerous buildings tagged with graffiti. Damage is being assessed now, but it is expected to be more than $100,000.

Both Richmond and VCU Police tell us the demonstrators were different last night compared to those participating in other peaceful demonstrations that occurred in Richmond over the last several weeks. The protest was promoted in social media and flyers to be destructive, ostensibly to support protests in Portland. We are concerned about groups that promote destruction and violence co-opting important social justice reform movements.

VCU supports free speech and stands in solidarity with those peacefully expressing messages of social justice and equity for all people. VCU does not condone – under any circumstance – acts of violence or vandalism, regardless of the purported cause.

Violence against people and deliberate destruction of property are contrary to the values of our community and will not be tolerated. VCU has asked the Commonwealth’s Attorney to press criminal charges against any individuals involved.

The safety of our university and health system campuses are of paramount importance. Our greatest contribution to equity and inclusion of our people is to provide a conducive environment for learning, working, living and health care for our students, patients, faculty, staff and health care team members.

I am confident that you, too, share our commitment to social justice and equality, peaceful expression and also our repudiation of violence and vandalism.

Sincerely,

Michael Rao
President, VCU and VCU Health System

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Night shift: Student safety ambassadors provide a resource for the VCU community after dark

The ambassadors, part of the university’s transition to a more equitable public safety model, provide assistance when people need help but don’t need to contact law enforcement.

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If you’re looking for Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore Ayanna Farmer-Lawrence in the evenings, you’ll most likely find her around the Compass wearing a bright-yellow vest.

Farmer-Lawrence is a newly hired student safety ambassador for the VCU Police Department — and her vest is both a uniform and visual identifier for VCU community members.

This past summer, the university announced a plan for police reform initiatives, including workforce realignment and the hiring of non-sworn, unarmed employees to serve as resources on campus when members of the VCU community need assistance, but do not feel compelled to contact law enforcement.

Carly Jackson wearing a safety vest.
Carly Jackson models a designated, uniform vest during her shift. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

John Venuti, VCU’s associate vice president of public safety and chief of police, said with safety and well-being as the focus, a student may be a better alternative option for needs such as asking for directions, answering questions about transportation, working at events and walking people to their cars at night.

“The safety ambassadors will be present in places with high volumes of students, such as outside the University Student Commons and the Compass,” Venuti said. “They will predominately work at night because in the spring 2020 perception of safety survey, students told us they feel less safe at night.”

The three safety ambassadors received 40 hours of training and are also tasked with reporting safety concerns they come across during their shifts. In their first two nights working, they reported to police about damaged property, a traffic light failure and a fire at a business on West Broad Street.

Farmer-Lawrence, a homeland security and criminal justice major in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, said the part-time position coincides with her goal of becoming a special agent for the FBI. She was drawn to become a safety ambassador to learn from police, build relationships, network and be ready for internships or employment opportunities upon graduation.

“I thought it was a good idea to be that person that [people] can go to if they have a problem, but don’t want to go to the police directly,” Farmer-Lawrence said. “It’s a good idea given what’s going on in society currently.”

Venuti said he looks forward to hearing feedback from community members about the new program and plans to expand the number of student safety ambassadors, and their designated locations, in spring 2021.

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Community

VCU Life Science Building on West Cary Street Suffers Fire

The fire was quickly brought under control and no injuries were reported.

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From VCU Alert:

On Nov. 18, 2020, the Richmond Fire Department was called to VCU’s Trani Life Sciences Building just before 10:45 a.m. for reports of a fire on the roof. The building was evacuated and no injuries have been reported. The fire appears to be limited to the roof of the building. The cause is being investigated.

  • The Cary Street Gym is open and not impacted by the fire. Cary Street is closed in the area to allow emergency vehicles to respond.
  • No other VCU buildings were impacted due to this incident.

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VCU Ram Attendance Capped at 250

VCU Athletics will begin basketball season with a capacity of 250 spectators inside the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

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VCU Athletics issued this statement earlier today.

VCU Athletics will begin basketball season with a capacity of 250 spectators inside the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Tuesday’s capacity adjustment was made in accordance with new COVID-19 safety guidance from the Commonwealth of Virginia, announced last week.

Should the State issue new guidance in the future, VCU Athletics will adjust accordingly.

A limited number of tickets will be made available to VCU students and guests of student-athletes. Approximately 175 seats will be reserved for season ticket holders. VCU Athletics will determine access to season tickets based on giving level and rank within each giving level, consistent with the Seat Equity model. VCU Athletics has created protocols to make unused tickets available to Ram Athletic Fund members on a single-game basis.

Season ticket holders will receive notice by Wednesday, Nov. 18 if they qualify for the new limited capacity model. Ticket holders who do not meet the limited capacity qualifications will have a variety of options, including the ability to transfer their season ticket donation to a Ram Athletic Fund gift for 2021-22 or a refund.

“We regret that we cannot have our usual full capacity to start the men’s basketball season,” McLaughlin said. “Our loyal, dedicated fans make our home games the best environment in college basketball and we will miss everyone who cannot attend in person. We will continue to work with all parties in an effort to maximize capacity beyond the current guidelines as the season progresses.”

VCU Athletics will limit seating to the arena bowl in a socially-distanced manner, with a buffer zone around the court to prevent contact between fans and participants. Courtside seating and the Tommy J. West Club will be closed. Ticket holders in those areas will have the opportunity to sit in the bowl area.

We here at RVAHub are in communication with the Rams and are hoping to have a photographer at the game but that isn’t confirmed yet.

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