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Richmond braces for potential impact from post-election protests

Organizations and residents in Richmond are bracing for potential activity related to the U.S. presidential election results. 

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By India Jones

Organizations and residents in Richmond are bracing for potential activity related to the U.S. presidential election results.

Richmond City officials said they will work with local and state partners to ensure public safety during and after the election.

“We encourage all residents to peacefully participate in our democracy and observe public health and public safety protocols in exercising their rights,” city officials said Monday in a statement.

Virginia Commonwealth University closed parking decks on Monroe Park Campus in Richmond from Monday night until Wednesday morning due to “potential activity on campus surrounding Election Day.” The closure excludes the West Main Street Parking Deck where temporary parking accommodations are available.

Protests have erupted around the nation, including Richmond, since May. Demonstrators called for social justice and police reform after George Floyd died in police custody. Floyd’s arrest was viewed around the world, with reaction to the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 8 minutes sparking months of protest. People also flooded the streets calling for justice in the shooting of Breonna Taylor, who died when police opened fire while serving a warrant. Those deaths and others fueled a sustained call for police and criminal justice reform that has transformed the election.

Richmond protests were less frequent in the fall. The initial weekend of protests after Floyd’s death saw widespread property damage throughout the city which included graffiti, broken windows and stolen property. An 8 p.m. curfew was established a few days later and Virginia State Police joined forces with local police. There were nights of clashes between demonstrators and officers. That’s left many people anticipating a strong reaction to the election, and some residents still expect civil unrest after a political rally Sunday at the area surrounding the Robert E. Lee monument.

Richmond City Council candidate Mike Dickinson led a “Trump Train 2” rally from Henrico County to Richmond, which ended with police investigating an unoccupied car struck by gunfire and a woman being pepper-sprayed. These caravans in support of President Donald Trump recently have been parading through areas around the nation ahead of the election.

Rumors have circulated that another “Trump Train” would head into the city on the evening of Election Day. Dickinson released a statement on Facebook that he and his supporters have nothing to do with it and he encouraged people to “keep the peace.”

“My campaign and I are not associated with any Trump Train event at all today and are not sponsoring any Trump Train event today,” the statement said. “We have shared everything we’ve found online about this potential event with the police.”

Richmond resident Isabelle Munnikhuysen heard the political rally from her apartment located on West Grace Street near the monument.

“It definitely increased my fears about what tonight is going to be like,” Munnikhuysen said. “I feel more in danger.”

Many local businesses on West Broad Street situated remain boarded up due to damage from previous protests. But some businesses opted not to close on Election Day, a state holiday, and remained open regular hours.

“It is important for us to be ready and prepared,” said Lift Café manager Emily Nguyen. “But we just haven’t decided as a team what message (boarding up) sends.”

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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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Government

VDH announces new QR codes to verify COVID-19 vaccination status

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

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The Virginia Department of Health today announced the addition of QR codes – a type of barcode that can be scanned with smartphones – to Virginia COVID-19 vaccination records.

QR codes – short for “quick response” – are commonly used in retail, logistics, and other sectors. The technology allows anyone to show proof of vaccination with a digital or printed QR code instead of a paper card, and without the need for an app. As more and more employers and businesses respond to calls by President Biden and Governor Northam to require that employees and customers be vaccinated, QR codes will help improve the consistency and security of vaccination information while protecting individual privacy.

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

QR codes contain the same information as paper records, but in a format that offers greater security and efficiency. Because the QR code is digitally signed by the Virginia Department of Health, it cannot be altered or forged. Information from QR codes is only available if and when the individual chooses to share it. Businesses and employers that choose to verify an individual’s vaccination status can scan QR codes with the free SMART Health Verifier App. Individuals do not need to download an app to use QR codes.

Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes, empowering individuals with trustworthy and verifiable copies of their vaccination records in digital or paper form using open, interoperable standards. The framework and standards were developed by VCI, a coalition of more than 800 public and private organizations – including The Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, MITRE, and The Commons Project Foundation.

QR codes are available to anyone whose vaccination record includes a working phone number and is in the Virginia Immunization Information System (VIIS). Nearly all doses administered in Virginia are reported to VIIS, including pharmacies, physician offices, health department clinics, federally qualified health centers, and community vaccination centers. Some doses administered outside Virginia to Virginia residents may be in VIIS. Doses administered directly by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs are not reported to VIIS. A person whose record cannot be retrieved automatically may call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1) for assistance.

With more than 10.2 million doses of vaccine administered so far in Virginia, more than 58% of the population is fully vaccinated. Everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated now. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

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Government

Va. Supreme Court clears way for removal of Lee monument in Richmond

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

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By Ned Oliver

The Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way Thursday for Gov. Ralph Northam to remove the Lee Monument in Richmond, one of the largest Confederate memorials in the state.

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

Northam announced he planned to take down the state-owned memorial in June 2020.

This is a breaking news update and will be updated as the situation develops.

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Community

Community Vaccination Hubs to Open in September

“These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.” – Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD

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From the Richmond Health District:

Starting in September, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will open four COVID-19 vaccination hubs that will each operate weekly in the coming months. These four small hubs will supplement RHHD’s ongoing pop up events in partnership with large employers, faith communities, community organizations, and more.

The opening of the four hubs follows the closing of RHHD’s last mass vaccination site at George Wythe High School earlier this month. Hubs are located in Richmond’s downtown and southside and in eastern and western Henrico to provide access to multiple communities.

“What we learned throughout our vaccination efforts so far is that a combination of clinics at stable locations and pop up events with community outreach is helpful in creating vaccine access,” explains Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD. “These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.”

The clinic locations and times are as follows:

  • Tuesdays, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm (first clinic on September 7th): Second Baptist Church (3300 Broad Rock Blvd)
  • Wednesdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: Henrico Recreation Center (1440 N Laburnum Ave)
  • Thursdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: RHHD Downtown Location (400 E Cary St)
  • Fridays, 9:00 am-12:00 pm: RHHD Henrico West Location (8600 Dixon Powers Dr)

To learn more about all available COVID-19 vaccination opportunities, visit vax.rchd.com.

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