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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. 

Capital News Service

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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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General Assembly

Lobby Day 2021 Road Closures and Preparations

It’s a lobby day like no other. Here are the announced road closures.

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From RPD:

The Richmond Police Department is dedicated and committed to ensuring public safety before, during, and after Lobby Day 2021.

The Department is continuing to monitor activity in and around Richmond, as well as working with other law enforcement agencies. Operations and personnel are in place to address public safety needs.

In anticipation of events, signs prohibiting firearms will be placed throughout the city to inform those who may gather that firearms are prohibited at permitted events and events that would otherwise require a permit, as well as areas adjacent to such events.

Some signs are already up as of Wednesday afternoon.

We encourage the community to stay vigilant. If you see something, say something. Report any suspicious activity immediately by calling the non-emergency line at 804-646-5100 or 911 for emergencies.

If you live or work in the area surrounding Capitol Square and downtown, you should expect disruptions to your usual routines. Traffic will be impacted starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday, January 17 until 6 p.m. Monday, January 18.

The following roads will be closed during that time period:

  • 9th Street between E. Main Street and E. Broad Street
  • 10th Street between E. Cary Street and Bank Street
  • East Main Street between 14th Street and 9th Street
  • Bank Street between 14th Street and Governor Street
  • Franklin Street between 8th and 9th Streets
  • Franklin Street between 7th and 8th Streets
  • East Grace Street between 8th and 9th Streets
  • East Grace Street between 7th and 8th Streets
  • 12th Street between Cary Street and Bank Street
  • Monument Avenue between Meadow Street and Lombardy Street
  • Allen Avenue between W. Grace Street and Park Avenue

    *Additional roads may be closed temporarily as needed

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Government

Richmond health districts enter Phase B1 of COVID vaccinations, which includes first responders, teachers, other essential workers

First responders, corrections and homeless shelter workers, and teachers and school staff are among the essential workers eligible for the vaccination under phase 1B.

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The local health districts of the Richmond Metropolitan Area, which includes Chesterfield, Chickahominy, Henrico, and Richmond, will begin expanding their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to include some Phase 1b frontline essential workers on Monday, January 18th.

Specifically, workers in the first three categories of ​Phase 1b​, will now be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines will be administered through a combination of regional mass vaccination events, as well as partnerships with various providers. Vaccination of ​Phase 1a populations​ will continue as the region opens up to Phase 1b.

“We know that the burden of this disease and the underlying social vulnerabilities that put these essential workers at risk do not end at the boundaries of our city and counties,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “It makes the most sense to coordinate our vaccination efforts and make sure all of our communities have access to the best tool we have to end the pandemic.”

The first three categories of Phase 1b frontline essential workers include:

  1. Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  3. Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff

Individuals in these categories will start to have the opportunity to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at one of three large-scale regional vaccination clinics beginning next week.

“Many school teachers and staff in our jurisdictions have courageously shown up for in-person instruction throughout this pandemic in order to serve their students’ needs and to provide the best education possible. This vaccine offers a shield of protection and a beacon of hope for this group of essential workers,” says Dr. Tom Franck, Director of Chickahominy Health District.

Next week’s COVID-19 vaccination events are taking place in addition to each local health districts’ ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts for qualified individuals. Metro area districts are exploring ways to move deeper into the 1b vaccine eligible group as additional resources become available to distribute vaccine more broadly.

“VDH is continuing to work with pharmacies, hospital systems, and medical practices to establish the infrastructure to more quickly and effectively distribute available resources and vaccinate others who are part of 1b and beyond,” says Dr. Alex Samuel, Director of Chesterfield Health District.

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Crime

City of Richmond declares State of Emergency due to “credible threats” related to planned protests

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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The City of Richmond and Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration has declared a State of Emergency for the city due to what officials call “credible threats” of violence related to planned protests leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.

The declaration follows Governor Ralph Northam’s declaration of a statewide State of Emergency, which allowed the administration to send National Guard troops and State Troopers to Washington, D.C. to help with security, logistics, and other immediate needs following the insurrection at the Capitol last week.

The city’s declaration opens up funds for emergency use and was voted into effect unanimously by City Council Monday evening.

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